Former Ethiopian premier lends a helping hand to $24m worth of Tanzania’s empty flower farms

During Mr Desalegn’s six-year long administration, horticulture was next to coffee in generating greenback to the Horn of Africa's country.

THURSDAY 18, 2024

One of the deserted flower farms in Arusha, Tanzania, the former Ethopiam premier will contribute to revive. PHOTOS | TAHA

By Adam Ihucha

The Tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania 

Africa’s icon of modern agricultural revolution, the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn, has thrown his weight on Tanzania’s ambitious plan to revive the once lucrative flower industry.

The idea is to breath a new life into seven defunct premium flower farms on the southern slopes of Mount Meru in Arusha, Tanzania, to spur other businesses, recover thousands of lost jobs, and generate revenue to the economy.

Arusha Regional Commissioner, Mr John Mongela, in collaboration with TAHA, the horticultural industry’s champion, has been working extra time to recoup the redundant 2,107.6-acre flower estates in their painstaking efforts to rekindle the lost glory of Arusha that was a major producer and exporter of the cash crop.

During his fact-finding mission at the deserted flower farms recently, Mr Desalegn, who is a strategic advisor in agriculture of Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan, pledged to use his vast experience to support the Tanzania’s initiatives of bringing the defunct farms into life.

“Ethiopia has been successful in horticultural industry. I can use such experience and my connections to support your efforts to revive the defunct flower farms with enormous potentials,” Mr Desalegn told the Arusha Regional Commissioner.

The former Ethiopian prime minister, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn (Centre), says his administration had prudently combined market forces and state’s intervention.

Credited as Africa’s agricultural revolutionist, Desalegn directed the Arusha RC to come-up with a strategic plan, outlining a package of key requirements for the flower plantations to be revived for him to take it from there.

During his tenure as Prime Minister between 2012 and 2018, horticulture in Ethiopia had become the country’s second-largest source of foreign currency after coffee.

Every year, almost 300,000 tonnes of horticultural products from Ethiopia were exported to the four corners of the world.

Mr Desalegn said the Ethiopia’s success was based on a prudent combination of market forces and state intervention.

To become internationally competitive, the Ethiopian government had invited foreign investors to provide the much-needed investment capital and technological capabilities.

The former Ethiopian prime minister, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn (Centre), inspects abandoned flower farms in Arusha, Tanzania. He is flanked by the Arusha Regional Commissioner, Mr John Mongela (Right), and the TAHA Chief Development Manager, Mr Anthony Chamanga (Left).

“A slew of incentives had been created to induce these firms – as well as domestic ones that can meet international export standards,” he said.

The Ethiopian government offered subside, generous credit schemes, 100 per cent exemption from the payment of duties on imported capital goods and raw materials for the production of exports, and five-year tax holidays on profits.

While Ethiopian firms initially kicked off the floriculture industry, foreign firms had increased their investment, accounting for 63 per cent of all firms operating in the horticultural industry in 2012.

Foreign investment contributed to technological development and improved market access, with official data showing nearly two-third of firms in the industry relying on loans from the Development Bank of Ethiopia.

And private banks, seeing the success of these loans, also started lending the industry.

One of the farms designed to produce flowers in Arusha, Tanzania, is producing maize instead.

Reacting, the Arusha RC welcomed Mr Desalegn’s plan, saying the gesture offered a new impetus on the scrupulous efforts to attain the flower industry renaissance and that it would herald fortunes to the local economy.

“We are so delighted to see the influential former prime minister of Ethiopia’s willing heart to support our mission to revive the defunct flower farms to restore hopes for the local population,” Mr Mongela explained.

The TAHA Chief Development Manager, Mr Anthony Chamanga, briefed the former Ethiopian premier saying the defunct flower estates used to generate multi-million dollars and create thousands of employments particularly for women and youth.

For instance, Mr Chamanga said, during their hey-days, the flower estates rake in $24.5 million annually, created 4,010 direct jobs and 40,000 others indirectly and generated $800,240 in government’s taxes, let alone stimulating the rural economy.

“We at TAHA can’t wait to see these farms become operational once again to leapfrog other local businesses, recoup thousands of the lost jobs, and spawn revenue to the economy,” Mr Chamanga said.

According to the Ethiopian Investment Commission, more than 130 companies engage in the production and export of business of horticultural products, including flowers. PHOTO | EHPEA

The once lucrative flower farms in northern highlands zone still represents the highest potential for diverse horticultural investments, Mr Chamanga explained.

The conducive climate, adequate infrastructure, proximity to markets’ gateway, supporting technical institutions and an already established cluster of activity make the farms the most likely magnet towards investmentΩ

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