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Ethiopian backs home-grown market to bear fruit...

Posted 28 June 2021 · Add Comment

Ethiopian Airlines Catering (ET Catering) is working on a growth plan to transform it into the biggest catering centre in Africa and one of the best in-flight service providers in the region. But first, it is taking the local approach. Kaleyesus Bekele reports.

Healthy options: Ethiopia has the perfect climate to produce fantastic food. Picture: ET Catering.

Established in the 1960s at Ethiopian Airlines’ Addis Ababa Bole International Airport hub, ET Catering currently has the capacity to produce 100,000 meals per day.

In 2016, the airline spent more than $20 million to expand the catering facility by building new kitchens, sourcing catering trucks, and hiring more professional staff.

Today, the centre boasts more than 1,000 staff.

Now, in an effort to serve its customers healthy food and beverages and also boost the local economy, ET Catering is eyeing indigenous organic foods.

At the launch of a new ‘Fly Ethiopian Go Green’ campaign, at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel in Addis Ababa on February 13, Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, said: “We are now focusing on indigenous fresh produce. The new go green campaign has two objectives – to serve fresh and healthy foods; and to encourage local producers and create local employment.”

He revealed: “We have already started working with farmers’ cooperatives and the US development agency, USAID, in building the capacity of local producers.”

The aid agency has recently signed an agreement with Ethiopian Airlines that enables it to provide technical and financial assistance to local producers. It has allocated $2 million to assist fruit and vegetable producers and poultry farms and meat suppliers. The agency has promised to provide additional funding in the second phase of the project.

ET Catering managing director, Belayneh Asfaw, said nature had endowed Ethiopia with beautiful weather suitable for horticulture farming. “We grow the best quality flowers; we grow tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs in the Rift Valley. Ethiopia is the origin of coffee. We have the finest organic coffee. We also have natural honey.”

According to Asfaw, ET Catering wants to promote Ethiopian national dishes on its flights. “We are working from farm to fork on the whole supply chain. We have a list of varieties of Ethiopian organic products that we can serve on board. In that way, we can create a market for local products, as well as local employment.”

Ethiopian Catering makes annual purchases worth $100 million but, currently, only around 10% of that is locally sourced. “We want to boost local purchase to 25%; we want to contribute our share for the country’s economic growth,” Asfaw added.

Before the 2016 expansion, the catering centre used to have a daily production capacity of 30,000 meals. Although it can now produce more than three times that amount, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means that it is currently reduced to around 20,000 meals.

In addition to supplying food and beverages to Ethiopian Airlines, the catering centre also provides for VIP and charter flights, which often shuttle to and from Addis Ababa.

“At the moment, we are not serving other airlines that operate scheduled flights to Addis Ababa,” said Asfaw. “Due to Covid-19, airlines are bringing in food and beverages from their home base. However, we are now holding discussions with airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways.”

There are 13 international airlines, including Emirates, Qatar, Kenya Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish and EgyptAir, that fly to Addis Ababa.

With the existing kitchen capacity, the professional chefs produce different international dishes, including a varied range of international cuisines, such as Chinese, Indian, Ottoman, and Italian. They cook Ethiopian national dishes and a wide range of bakery products, desserts, and celebratory cakes.

For Muslims, ET Catering has a separate accredited Halal kitchen with designated chef, which has special recognition by Haj and Umrah passengers.

In the Ethiopian Airlines 15-year growth strategy, ET Catering plans to generate $14.4 million annual revenue by 2035.



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