This was how the employees in flower farms pack flowers before the current standard boxes that weigh 12kg were introduced.
Foreign exchange repatriated from flowers grew 14pc to 212.5 million dollars in 2011/12 for reasons attributed to the implementation of a new control mechanism imposed on exporters.
The previous fiscal year's revenue of 184 million Br was obtained from an export of 1.8 billion stems. The per-stem value of the repatriated revenue remained the same, but more money was obtained because the export had grown to 2.1 billion stems.
Earlier practices had it that the customs officials selected sample boxes and made a count of the stems in them. The government claimed that this was problematic to trace actual number of stems exported, hence creating a condition for the exporters to retain more of the revenue out of the country. Exporters were expected to repatriate 10 dollar-cents for each stem.
That changed in the last fiscal year. The government introduced standard 12-kg boxes, holding 10.8kgs of flower. The repatriation was also raised to 3.68 dollars per 12kg. These boxes hold around 300 stems of lowland flowers and 220 larger highland flowers. The expectation was that the introduction of these boxes would partly help achieve revenues of 274.6 million dollars from the export of nearly 2.8 billion stems, according to Ethiopian Horticulture Development Agency (EHDA).
Before this year, they did not know the exact amount exported, because the auditing depended on counting number of stems in sampled boxes. Because of this they were not able to control the amount of money repatriated.
"Such improvements in revenues is achieved because of the new export management," an expert at the agency claims.
The EHDA introduced the boxes in an export management directive issued in February 2012. The new measure there is more control on how many stems they actually exported.
"This system has also relatively reduced the amount of flowers that got damaged during transportation and hence each stem generates foreign currency," the horticulture expert at the Agency said.
Previously many flowers were damaged as the customs officials opened each of the sample boxes, counting every piece, according to a flower grower in Debre Zeit.
The just ended fiscal year was good not only for the government. Exporters had enjoyed favorable international prices, too.
Large stem flowers were sold for as much as 1.27 dollars in February 2011/12, up from 1.13 dollars, while small stem flowers were sold for 0.47 dollars, up from 0.35 dollars, the previous year.
"This is because there was a supply shortage in the international market," an exporter told Fortune.
Neighboring Kenya, which is the European Union's biggest source of flower imports with 25pc market share, was challenged by bad weather conditions which affected its export.
Kenya's 133 flower farms exported 403,026tns of flowers, repatriating 902 million dollars in 2010; that was down in 2011 to 382,638tns, but generated 1.1 billion dollars, getting more for less. The dollar repatriated for 2011 was fivefold of Ethiopia's for 2011/12.
With the 73 current active flower farms, flower has finished the fiscal year being the fifth foreign exchange earner in Ethiopia in 2011/12. The flowers of the two countries compete in the same European markets.
Out of the total 1,313ha of land covered by flowers in Ethiopia, 480ha is located in the lowland vicinity of Zeway and Awash and the rest in midland and highland areas around Addis Abeba, Holeta, Sululta, Sendafa, Sebeta and Bishoftu.