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Sher Ethiopia:

Dutch broadcast criticizes Ethiopian rose farm

Are African rose farms taking advantage of their employees, natural circumstances and tax opportunities? According to the Dutch television progam Zembla, at least one of them is. They made an extensive report on the rose grower Sher Ethiopia, who's roses are sold under the Fair Trade label. According to Sher, the broadcast's statements regarding the farms' water management, poverty among employees despite the Fairtrade certificate, the use of crop protection products, the tax avoidance, and allocation of land are inaccurate and inadequate.

Zembla broadcast
In the broadcast by Zembla, the farm and their Dutch owners were heavily criticized. The staff of Zembla traveled to Ethiopia to see how sustainably and fairly this 325 ha sized company, that is located on Lake Ziwaty, operates. According to the broadcast, Sher Ethiopia is underpaying its nearly 10,000, Ethiopian employees, exposing them to chemical crop protection products, which causes health issues among their employees and people in the surrounding area, and is one of the main causes of the drying-up of a nearby lake. On top of that, the accuracy of their Fairtrade certification has been questioned.

Sher is one of the largest employers in Ethiopia and, in a reaction, the company says that the statements made by the broadcast are incorrect. "We wish to distance ourselves in strong terms from the gross inaccuracies and inadequacies which have been outlined by Zembla", says CEO Barnhoorn. He choose not to say this in front of the Zembla camera. "After thorough consideration, we decided to discard the possibility of reacting to all allegations in front of the ZEMBLA camera. We have been advised to do so by various parties, because we were told by various well-informed sources that the ZEMBLA editorial staff has a very selective way of deciding which comments they do or do not wish to broadcast, in order to minimize impeding the editorial imaging intended by them," he says.

Reaction Sher Ethiopia
On their website the company gives an extensive reaction to the critique of their water management (which according to Zembla is a cause for the drying-up of the Zimay lake), use of crop protection products (which, according to Zembla, affects the health of their employees, the fish in the lake and in turn the health of the people in that area), remuneration policy (according to Zembla the employees are being underpaid, they receive not enough money to live from), tax policy and allocation of land. "Sher Ethiopia has various international partners that fully subscribe to our company policy and moreover consider us a pioneer in the field of sustainability and as an example to others. For this reason, the prejudiced and negative report by ZEMBLA feels particularly unpleasant and frustrating. It is a comforting thought that our customers, employees and other stakeholders are familiar with our way of working and appreciate this."

Click here to view the broadcast by Zembla (In Dutch)
Click here to read the reaction of Sher Ethiopia.

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