ADDIS ABABA (HAN) November 15, 2015. Public Diplomacy & regional Security. Legendary long distance athlete, Haile Gebresilassie, whose business portfolio is fast expanding, has now ventured into the apiculture sector with his latest honey production already earning vast interests from European nations.
Having delivered his first product in the local market labeled Haile Mar (Haile Honey), the former Atlanta and Sydney Olympics Gold Medalist is warming up for major exports to European countries including Germany, the Netherlands.
Haile told The Reporter that he is producing the honey from his 200 hectares of coffee farm in Sheka area of southern Ethiopia which he describes as one of the “best and high quality” origins of honey in the country.
He, however, indicated that it would take at least a year to officially commence exports. “Important preconditions and requirements that are highly required by customers in Europe based on their standard have to be met before we start export,” Haile said
He explained that sample products of local honey which he earlier sent to Europe was already welcomed by European customers.
“We have already sent our personnel there to review the market condition. After tasting our honey they gave us positive feedback and found it to be high-quality honey. Hence, they have given us the green light that enables us to proceed,” he told The Reporter.
According to Haile, his customers particularly from Germany and the Netherlands demand high standards which includes packaging, labeling, transportation means and related issues to insure the quality of the honey. Speaking of the potential of the honey business Haile said, “We believe that there is a huge potential which remains untapped. In addition, it can bring in the much needed foreign currency, which already is a serious problem in the country.”
Haile has already grown 200 hectares of coffee which is ready for harvest out of a total 1,500 hectares.
In a related development, he also told The Reporter that he has already finalized a deal with the giant Korean car-maker, Hyundai, to assemble the vehicles locally.
Currently, he is waiting to secure land from the Addis Ababa City Administration to build the assembly plant around Lebu area in the south western outskirts of the capital.
Haile revealed that the Korean car-maker is very strict on their requirements and standards which made him wait for a longer period time.
“Our interest was to build the plant this year and start assembling right away. But due to administrative procedures including land lease and strict requirements from Hyundai to maintain the quality of their brand, we had to wait for more time. But I hope that we will go operational by next year” Haile told The Reporter.
He said that it is challenging to engage in such type of manufacturing sub-sector where there is shortage of inputs that can be sourced locally.
“It is not that much advantageous for an investor if you cannot source 50 percent of your inputs from the local market. Assembling cars by importing most parts, if not all, is not economically viable. In fact, there have other sectors that everyone can benefit from. For instance, if we see textile, leather or agro-processing we have all the resources (inputs) in our country,” Haile said while stressing that his engagement in the car assembly business is a challenging one. He also added that it is difficult to import inputs since there is an erratic shortage of foreign currency.
Currently, Haile is engaged in several businesses and investments that make him one of the major business tycoons in the country. Hotel and resorts, gold, coffee, agriculture, import and export and real estate, are among the major business he is engaged in. However, he hinted that he is on the verge of quitting the real estate business for several reasons that he declined to mention.