Seedling Business Roots in Addis

Plant nursery and seedling production business is flourishing around the capital.  But the business faces many challanges including finding suitable retail spaces, water shortages and supply of fertilizers. Retail nursery supports other enterprises that supply plastic-pots, seeds and plant wholesalers. It is a season trade where the nurseries make most of their income in the rainy season, reports MADEBO GIRMA, FORTUNE STAFE WRITER.

Ziyad Hadi, 40, is one of the owners of NiqatSeedling Retailer & Environment Cleaner, a cooperative established 13 years ago that now has 100 employees.

Ziyad is married with four children and finds his job satisfactory after he took some time off.

“This is not the work for me, rather it is my enjoyment,” he says, “I relax more, and I get more satisfaction when I have been here working in protecting the flowers.”

Niqatsells more than 100 varieties of seedlings and flowers. Golden dewdrops, Duranta erecta, is the most popular item on sale.  The cooperative also sells seedlings of golden shower trees, blanket flowers and spurges.

Located in the Qirqosdistrict, the cooperative was established as a small business. Ziyad vividly remembers his own rags-to-riches story.

The business was first started in Riche, along Sierra Leone Street, before moving toLegharand then to its current location in Qirqos.

“We had to move, because the wereda administrations needed the land for construction,” he says.

Now, established on the cooperative’s 1,000sqm lot, the current worry is about other challenges. Chief among them is water scarcity, especially in the dry season, Bega.

Plant nursery and seedling production business is flourishing around the capital. 

“Without adequate water the plants and flowers shrink. We also have a hard time getting fertilizer,” Ziyad says. “We get many of the seedlings from overseas.”

The semi-matured flowers and seedlings come from Debre Zeit, just south of Addis Abeba. The seedlings, costing 10 Br at wholesale price, sell out within weeks. The business booms in the rainy season and bottoms out in the dry months.

“Customers feel they can take better care of the plants during the rainy season,” Ziyad says. “In the summer, we may not see a single customer for up to three months.”

The price of the seedlings varies based on quality, lifespan, standards and attractiveness. The least expensive could go for as little as 15 Br, while others could sell for as much as 5,000 Br.

Most customers are hotels, universities and parks. The seedling business is also creating other business opportunities, including the supply of plastic pots to hold the seedlings. Based on size, the price of the pots could range from 50-300 Br.

Brhanu Duma, a family members of Neqat, says that awareness among the public on the importance of planting trees has grown. He, nonetheless, believes that their challenges are to pay attention to how to grow the industry.

“The shortage of water and fertilizer should be addressed,” he says.

Zenebe Weldemariam, a married father of one, is another nursery retailer. He has set up his business in Qirkosdistrict as well. Unlike Neqat, the company is in its infancy. He employs 10 people and is in the process of developing the business. But Zenebe says that he did not find his customers to be as he expected.

Retail nursery supports other enterprises that supply plastic-pots, seeds and plant wholesalers.

“Location matters, as in any other business, and the fact that the space I occupy used to be a dump site is not helping,” Zenebe said. “The scarcity of water in the dry season is also another major challenge pulling the business back.”

Miftah Mohamed is also another seedling supplier that branched off from Neqatin Bole district. Miftah believes that the nursery business is a great opportunity for job creation. Just three years ago he was jobless when he took part in a government initiative that organises individuals and gives training services.

The training took three months and was focused on proper seedling management.

“We received training on seed varieties, soil types and soil suitability, and the correct use of fertilisers,” he said.

Unemployed adults below the age of 60 are allowed to take part in the training program and to organise.

“We offer financial support and access to land,” Mengistu Mulusew, cooperation team leader at Qirqosdistrict’s Wereda 04. “All that is required are proof of residency, joblessness and an interest in the trade.”

Hiwot Girma is one of Miftah’s customers. She often finds it hard to make the right choice.“All the seedlings and the flowers are very attractive. I can’t decide,” she says, adding “they are relaxing to look at.”

Hiwot buys the seedlings for home use, and she plants them in her garden for aesthetics.

Hussen Mohamed (PhD), head of the Hawassa University’s School of Plant & Horticultural Science, believes expansion of awareness and businesses in the country are beneficial, chiefly to address environmental concerns.

“Businesses are growing points of possibilities for creating more green spaces, which will help protect against greenhouse gas emissions into the environment,” he said. “The varieties of the plants to be used should be considered in urban planning, as long rooted plants can create cracks on asphalt roads and tall trees can impact electric lines.”

Given increasing levels of global warming across the planet, it is developing countries such as Ethiopia that are considered most susceptible to the effects of climate change. This is because of existing food insecurity and lack of adequate provisions of public services.

Ethiopia is projected to experience an increase in average temperatures, erratic rainfall and increased uncertainty of seasonal rainfall patterns and more incidents of drought, according to a 2016 report by the United States Agency for International Development.

However, research conducted in 2016 by four lecturers at the College of Agriculture & Environmental Science at Arsi University shows that the quality of seeds in Ethiopia has problems, and most of the plant nurseries face challenges in producing quality seedlings.

“Nurseries procure their seeds from informal seed dealers that supply cheap but low-quality seeds,” reads the study. “This indicates that most nurseries do not give high consideration to seed quality, which determines seedling quality.”

The study recommends the establishment of better seed supply chains.

There is an urgent need to organise the seedling supply system, build the capacity of informal dealers to deliver better quality seeds, and to organise both seed dealers and nursery operators toward better seed quality control and seed pooling, according to the recommendations of the study.




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