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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Flower farming blooms in Ethiopia
By Amber Henshaw
BBC, Addis Ababa

Rows and rows of rose cuttings fill a vast warehouse in Alem Gena, a small town about 30km from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Flower worker
The flower industry is blooming in Ethiopia
They are being grown into small plants ready to be sold on.

Ethioplants is owned by Dutch flower grower Felix Steeghs who moved here in September.

He saw the potential in Ethiopia's new flower market and was sick of the violence that he and his colleagues faced in Kenya - Africa's current biggest flower producer - where he had worked for eight years.

The major concerns are social concerns - working rights and decent working conditions and environmental concerns
Negusu Aklilu, environmentalist
"We were living in Naivasha - if you count all the Europeans you might get 150 to 200 people, and I think within 12 months there were 10 attacks on white people of which 5 were fatal," he says.

Felix started off in Ethiopia with 5,000 square metres, but he hopes to have doubled that by August, and says there is plenty more room for growth.

British businessman Ryaz Shamji agrees: "I'm actually convinced Ethiopia has tremendous potential," says Ryaz, who started production at his flower farm, Golden Rose, in 2000.

He now produces 24 million roses a year but wants to increase that to 36 million.

"The industry has grown from 40 hectares productive to 250 hectares productive in the last three years, and is likely to hit 400 hectares productive by the end of this year," he says.

Ecological worries

Floriculture already earns Ethiopia $20m a year.

Flower worker
Pollution and the use of chemicals worry campaigners
But environmentalists are concerned that growers are using chemicals which are damaging the environment and making workers ill.

"The major concerns are social concerns - working rights and decent working conditions and environmental concerns," says Negusu Aklilu, co-ordinator of Ethiopia's Forum for the Environment.

"For example, if you take the pesticide issue, pesticides are about workers' conditions and also about the environment."

The Ethiopian government is keen to encourage investors, offering them a five-year tax holiday and duty-free import of machinery.

The government is also working with the environmentalists. Dr Tewolde Birhan, head of Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Agency, says the government has introduced a new law.

"The intention is to control pollution and it has three steps, as in all countries," Dr Tewolde says.

"Environmental impact assessment before you start your job; environmental auditing regularly to make sure you aren't polluting the environment; and if you are unable to prevent pollution, you close down."

Players in the industry like Felix Steeghs and Ryaz Shamji support these measures, realising that having everything regulated and above board can ensure Ethiopia's flower industry a blooming future.

Uganda's flower industry recovers
23 Mar 04 |  Business
Kenya's flower farms flourish
14 Feb 02 |  Business

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