|Indians rated best growers in Ethiopia
|- By N Ramachandra
|Floriculture manpower supply is slowly but surely emerging as a fast growing industry for Indians. Of late floriculture exhibition was held in IPM Dubai, where 'Floriculture Today' participated with an aim to promote the Indian floriculture sector overseas.
On the sideline of the event MB Naqvi of 'Floriculture Today' met N. Ramachandra a floriculturist from India now settled in Ethiopia
He chatted with N. Ramachandra, General Manager (Operations) of Euro Flora PLC a new floriculture production unit in Ethiopia. He was earlier working in an export oriented floriculture unit near Bangalore. Ramachandra did his M.SC in horticulture. Therefore horticulture seems to be in his blood. Excerpts from the interview :
Before coming to Ethiopia you had worked in India. How many years did you work in India?
Yes, I really agree with you. Before coming to Ethiopia I had worked in an export oriented floriculture unit near Bangalore. As far as my experience in India is concerned I worked for 13 years in an Indian floriculture farm after that I moved to Ethiopia.
Why did you shift from India to Ethiopia?
One thing I would like to say here that Ethiopia is a new emerging hub in floriculture sector. I got better offer here. That is why I am in Ethiopia today. Currently I am working as a General Manager (Operations) of Euro Flora PLC a well-known floriculture production unit in Ethiopia. I joined as a farm manager then promoted as a general manager (operations) in a short stint. All these things attracted me to stay in Ethiopia.
You are working with Euro Flora. Tell me the size of your farm and how many Indians are working in Ethiopia? Yes, as I have mentioned above right now I have been working for Euro Flora PLC. As far as the size of the farm is concerned, there are two categories of farm size, one of the sizes of the farm is of 5.4 hectares, and the other's size is 5.6 hectares. Therefore in total the dimension of the farm is 11 hectares. See! In Ethiopia and other African countries many Indians are employed in different sectors, especially in the floriculture sector you will find numerous Indians. The common opinion in Ethiopia in the floriculture sector is that the south Indian growers are very competent.
Tell me the number of technical persons employed in Ethiopian floriculture sector?
Currently there are around 20 to 22 technical people working in Ethiopian floriculture sector, others are supporting staffs.
Talking about the salary segment what is the salary structure in Ethiopia.
There are salary slabs in Ethiopia like other parts of the world. I can say that overall employees are well-satisfied with the salary structure in Ethiopia. Salary depends according to the designation of the staffs. In Ethiopia a production manager gets 1000 dollar. Those who are working on senior posts are getting 2500 dollar. As far as my salary is concerned I get more than double salary in comparison to India.
Tell me the facilities you and others are getting in Ethiopia?
Here in Ethiopia we are well placed. We have got lots of facilities such as accommodation, vehicle et al.
Are you working for Ethiopian or European employers?
At present I am working with an Indian employer. They are two partners. One director lives in Ethiopia and another is also an Indian but settled in UK.
What prompted you to enter horticulture sector? Is it your family background that attracted you to agriculture?
Speaking frankly, I am basically from the agriculture family so other members are dedicated workers and try to give best-possible result. As far as the quality of the Indian farmers is concerned, they are known for their quality work.
It means you have green fingers?
I think because I enjoy growing flowers. It is now part and parcel of my life. Usually I live in farm house most of the time. It is better to say that I spend my 24 hours around flowers.
It means the Ethiopians are improving their life style?
Yes, there is no doubt in it. Ethiopians have been improving their life style for the last 3 or 4 years.
What is the advantage in working with the Ethiopian farm in comparison to Indian farm?
Here in Ethiopia we are well satisfied compare to Indian farms. We get respect and have good prospects in future also. Do you meet regularly with other managers or face competition with other farms? Yes, we meet regularly. In our meeting we share our opinion, experience, transmit knowledge, and try to help others if there is some problem in neighboring production house. There is not much competition among the managers or farm houses in Ethiopia.
Tell me about the climate in Ethiopia
Climate in Ethiopia is fantastic specially for the cultivation of flowers. High and low altitude both are found there. Our farm is located 2400 meter high. We produce high quality of flowers. But production on this height is to some extent less. Other areas which are located above 2300 to 3200 meter altitude in such places production level are high but quality is not as good as ours. There is no doubt in it that Ethiopia is producing quality flowers at this moment.
Are you happy with the resources in Ethiopia, like availability of water or logistics?
We have no problem of resources. We have enough water. Power is not a problem so is the case with labour. Land is actually cheap in Ethiopia. Therefore government authority is enticing the investors to invest money in floriculture sector. But we have some logistics problem.
In recent times Kenyan floriculturists are giving stiff competition. As a production person what is your understanding about the quality production scenario?
See! The quality of the Ethiopian flowers' is good. But in recent times Kenya has made a big stride in floriculture sector. In Kenya big farms have come in vogue and they are being managed properly. In spite of this Kenyan floriculturist has not fully matured. Labours are not skillful in Kenya. I believe at present Kenya is not going to hurt Ethiopians in this sector.
Will Kenya sustain production?
Yes, it will sustain production. But quality is an important factor in the end.
You have vast experience in floriculture sector. Are you planning to start your own business in India or somewhere else?
Once I planned to start a project in India. Afterward I dropped my plan. That time I think that this is not the right time to start work in India. I have several offers. At present I am not going to start my own business. But it is my dream, to start my own work in future.
Are your friends working in Ethiopia planning to start something new?
One of my friends has started his own business. Some experienced guys are planning to start small units in India.
Being a floriculture entrepreneur what is your final vision - to become a flower exporter or horticulture exporter?
To become a horticulture exporter is my aim. As far as flowers are concerned I do not know the future of this industry. Industry is struggling actually.
What is the success or failure ratio among the Ethiopians, Europeans and Indian floriculturists in Ethiopia?
Talking of success rate, it is undeniable that the Indians are far ahead. Indian farmers are considered as the best growers. They have no problem in marketing. Meanwhile Ethiopians have somewhat marketing difficulty.
Do you think that local growers have some advantage?
No, nothing, every body has equal opportunity in Ethiopia whether they are Indians, Europeans or local growers. If problem emerges then all have to pass through the same difficulty. Even European companies have to face the same problem.
Those European companies, which are facing problems, have closed down the production?
Yes, you are absolutely right. Actually two or three European farms have closed down their production. One farm has stopped production in toto.
How many farms are in operation in Ethiopian floriculture sector?
Currently exact number I do not know. I think some 70 farms or companies are operating in Ethiopia and producing flowers for export.
How many companies belong to Indian entrepreneurs?
I believe at this time Indians are the owner of at least 10 companies in Ethiopia.