Horticulture is estimated to be only one of the first industries to be hit by the Coronavirus pandemic.

For the past five years, Adanech Kumela (left) and Werqe Girma have cut roses at the Yassin Legesse Johnson Flower Farm for export to mainly European and North American markets. The roses not only fetch revenue for the company but much-needed foreign currency for the country.

This has not been the case lately. They have continued to cut the flowers but only to dispose of them as demand has frozen in prime export destinations when they went into lockdown following the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The company has been hemorrhaging money as a result, and one of the major sources of foreign currency for the country has been disrupted.

An industry employing over 150,000 and generating hundreds of millions of dollars every year, it has been one of the first to feel the economic consequences of the pandemic. Unsettled by the sudden loss of income, the Ethiopian Horticulture Producers & Exporters Association has appealed to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Requesting a capital injection, loan rescheduling and reclaiming of VAT paid in advance, the flower exporters have reached a deal with the government. The minimum selling prices in international markets have been removed, and they will have access to chemicals and fertilisers at reduced prices from the government. The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) is also availing 15 billion Br to private banks for use in debt retrench and additional loans to businesses feeling the pinch across the country.

For the time being, employees of the flower farms are secure after discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture led to the conclusion that the alternative is too dire to consider. Growing the flowers will continue, even if it means that they would have to be dumped after harvest.

Horticulture is estimated to be only one of the first industries to be hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. If the current lockdowns across the world continue, workers like Adanech, Werqe and 30 million other Africans working in the private sector stand to lose their livelihoods, according to Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

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PUBLISHED ON Mar 28,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1039]

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