Flower farming in Africa is set to grow both in market size and revenue after the Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise announced its plan to transport loads of Ethiopian roses to the U.S. through Miami, Los Angeles and New York.
The state-owned airline, which currently transports stems to the U.S. in passenger planes, said it is assessing possibilities of making cargo flights to America through the three routes, which will enable local flower exporters to ship more stems to the lucrative market.
Ten or 15 years ago Ethiopia was not exporting a single rose, but now we have earned our position in the world market. North America has been the major importer of horticulture products from other parts of the world, so we want to have part of that, the airline’s regional manager Girum Abebe told Bloomberg.
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But for this plan to succeed, some amendments have to be made to the current air-service agreements between Ethiopia, U.S. and Canada. At present, under the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2015, sub-Saharan countries are allowed to export flowers to the U.S. only on a limited basis.
For decades, Ethiopia, and indeed the rest of Africa, has been exporting most of its flowers to Europe, particularly Netherlands, which consumes about 80 percent of Ethiopia’s total production.
But in recent years the European flower market has stagnated, forcing growers and exporters to look for other opportunities in trans-Atlantic markets. Ethiopia is the second-largest flower exporter in Africa after Kenya, which contributes 11 percent of the total flower exports globally. Ethiopia contributes 9 percent.
With a tropical high-altitude climate, which provides year-round natural light coupled with hot days and cold nights that are ideal for bringing flower plants into bloom, Ethiopia is slowly becoming a force to reckon with in global floriculture.
The east African nation is also expanding its main international airport, Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, by creating a new 150,000-square-meter cargo hub with a capacity for 1 million metric tons of perishable goods annually, including fresh flowers.
Aside from the American routes, Ethiopian Airlines – the largest airline in Africa – is also targeting several other major international destinations, including Dubai and Argentina, all of which are aimed at providing extra markets for local exporters.