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Ethiopian flower market in bloom

Between 2007 and 2011, the number of flower stems Ethiopia exported quadrupled to more than 2 billion stems, according to the Ethiopian Horticulture Development Agency. The EHDA is a government agency that aims to make Ethiopia a leading African country in exporting horticulture, including flowers.

After Kenya, Ethiopia is the second largest exporter of roses out of Africa, says Dawit Woubishet, director and owner of Tradepath International Plc., which began flower transport operations in 2007.

Tradepath is a freight forwarder, airline representative, trucking company and distributor based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Every week, Tradepath operates an average of 10-12 freighters full of flowers, says Woubishet (pictured right). During holidays such as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, that number can jump to 15 freighters, which is about 900 tonnes of flowers per week. The majority are roses, but carnations and azaleas are also in the mix, Woubishet says.

Tradepath uses trucks to collect flowers from farms and then puts them in a refrigerated warehouse space operated by Ethiopian Airlines. The flowers fly to Liege, Belgium, and then are trucked to Amsterdam for auction. After that, the flowers go to customers in Scandinavia, Russia, Japan and parts of Western Europe.

“The cool chain is very important because the temperature has to be controlled,” Woubishet says. “If that’s not the case, if we kept all the flowers all together for a longer time, the flowers breathe. So when they breathe, they will touch all the other flowers, and then the heat will come out of them, and this will affect all the other flowers. They’re going to have a bad quality.”

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