Unrest Glances off Valentines Flower Business




February is among the peak times where the flower market hits high all over the world, as the Valentines day festivity was at the mid of the month. Ethiopian flower suppliers are among the beneficiaries of this market opportunity, which faces a pause last week. The harvesting of flowers was hardly happening in the farms, and the cut flowers were not able to be transported to the capital. Also, the decline in the demand of the local market and the almost non-supply of flowers disappointed retailers who talked with HAIMANOT ASHENAFI, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.


Meles Gelete was standing at the gate of his small flower shop, Meles Abebe Gift Shop located on Cameroon Street, wondering how he is going to bounce back from the unexpected loss he has incurred during this year’s Valentines Day.

Normally he feels tired on the next day after serving so many customers on every February 14, but this phenomenon did not work for this year.

Meles remembered that he sold around 8,000 pieces of rose flowers same time last year. This year he only sold 400 sticks for 10 Br, where the average price wouldn’t be more than four Birr.

Getting the flowers from farms in Holeta and Bishoftu, Meles has been receiving a stick of a rose for no more than two Birr in the casual days. But this year, he received the flowers from unknown suppliers with threefold the price.

Meles mark this incident as one of the seasons which his business booms as many couples exchange flowers to express their affection on valentines day, which was celebrated to commemorate the legendary Roman Physician and Priest St. Valentine who was beheaded for cross passing orders of Emperor forbidding marriage for single soldiers, to be braver than the married ones.

The day creates a business bonanza for flower farms and shops and other businesses providing services on that day across the globe. In 2018 the United States Valentine’s day aggregate spent a record second high in history next to 2016, where on flower extravaganza exceeds a little of two billion dollars, with 1.9 billion dollars for the latest one.

The fiesta which is known in the world to raise the shopping of gifts, flowers, jewellery, chocolates and much more, has also become an attractive market opportunity recently for local businesses.

Among the beneficiaries of the windfall of February are Ethiopian flower exporters, queued on the front, as the nation is the second flower exporter in the continent, next to Kenya. Only in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, the nation exported 1.7 billion kilograms of cut flower and generated 271 million dollars. Among the 172 horticulture investors, 44 of them are on the floriculture investments, cultivating 1252ha.

The recent among them is the three days strike in Oromia Regional State that occurred early last week. The sit-in was held to the extent of blocking major feeding roads to the capital.



But the second quarter would not be as successful as the first quarter since the country was massively hit by frequent unrest that occurs in the regions where the horticulture farms are located.

The recent among them is the three days strike in Oromia Regional State that occurred early last week. The sit-in was held to the extent of blocking major feeding roads to the capital.

A flower farm in Holeta, 36Kms from the city, is one of the businesses which was affected by the recent incident. The company exported over 150,000 sticks of flowers same season last year to the middle east. But this year it exported no stick.

“We couldn’t transport our product to Addis Abeba, as the road to Addis Abeba was closed for three consecutive days including on the Valentines day,” said the manager of this company.

Beyond exporting the products, this company retails the flowers at its gift shop located on the African Avenue, though it is denied by the government vowing the horticulturalists have to export their products fully.

Due to the supply shortage, he sold a stick of rose for seven Birr, an increase from four Birr.

Starting from last Monday to Thursday a single of a vehicle carrying flower, food items, fuel was not entering the city due to the closure of roads. As a result of this, there was a long queue on fuel stations as there was a short of fuel supply.

Adugna Debella (PhD), deputy chief executive officer of Ethiopian Horticulture & Agriculture Investment Authority, who was on a field visit at the farms last week confirms that no activity was taking place in the farms from such areas.

Apart from the recent unrest, other prominent companies like Sher Ethiopia were challenged with another problem, such as environmental change.



“There is no harvest and export for the three days of the sit-in,” he told Fortune. “But, to quantify the loss, we need to analyse the weekly and daily export of those days,” said Adugna.

But businesses like that of Tana Flora Plc were saved from the recent incident following the new direct flight that was launched by Ethiopian Airlines from Bahir Dar to Belgium.

Tana is located in Bahir Dar and exports 211.2tn of flower worth 1.4 million euro during this valentines season. Last year same period it has exported 175tn of flowers.

“The new cargo flight saved us from the current incident,” Getachew Cherkos, the finance head of the company told Fortune.

Such kinds of problems could cause further damage in the business, according to Alazar Ahmed, a marketing consultant who conducted a research in 2007 dubbed as Horticultural Marketing in Ethiopia.

He recalls the investors flooding Ethiopia’s market following Kenya’s election crises back in 2007. Many horticulture farms from Kenya relocated to Ethiopia due to conflicts occurring between the supporters of Mwai Kibaki and fans of the Orange Party led by Raila Odinga.

“If such kinds of incidents persist in Ethiopia, there is no way that the foreign companies would not evacuate from the country, same as Kenya’s case,” he said.

Apart from the recent unrest, other prominent companies like Sher Ethiopia were challenged with another problem, such as environmental change.

“This year’s production will be lesser as the weather is affecting our productivity,” said Kemal Hussien, public relations head of Sher Ethiopia located in East Shoa Zone, Adami Tulu Jiddo wereda, 160Km from Addis Abeba.

Though the roads were opened after four days, businesses have already lost their golden opportunity during the recent valentines day. But things started to go back to normal for Meles when Yeabsira Solom, 15, visited his shop last Thursday.

Yeabsira was looking for flowers for an adieu to her brother in law, who was travelling back to Houston, Texas in United States. She bought yellow roses adorned with purple decorations costing her 38 Br.

By HAIMANOT ASHENAFI
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER





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