Tholen – There is a lot to do about the production of fruit and vegetables in the Netherlands. For example, we see the wage costs, production and seasonal personnel for steed have to move further away and for top fruit or tomatoes, for example, production and competition is increasing in Poland, the Caucasus and Morocco. In addition, the pressure of regulations and environmental issues is increasing. With all this headwind, will the production of fruit and vegetables still have a place in the Netherlands in the future? Richard Schouten of GroentenFruit Huis and Sjaak van der Tak of LTO Nederland answered this question in the trade magazine Primeur this summer.
Sjaak van der Tak and Richard Schouten ‘in’ a typical Dutch cultivation scene with fields and greenhouses
Wind with you
Richard Schouten, director of GroentenFruit Huis, which represents the interests of companies active in the sale of fruit and vegetables, does not see it that way. “We have the wind in our favor. Fruit and vegetables are positively assessed by policy makers in Europe and in the Netherlands. That means that fruit and vegetable production should continue.”
He expected that The Green Deal of the European Union will influence how we deal with production in Europe and how we deal with imports. “There will be policy frameworks that direct products to sound close.”
This would offer prospects for the local sale of Dutch products that are available year-round for a large part of the year, such as the harvest from greenhouse horticulture, top and soft fruit and open field vegetables. For some, import will be inevitable, but of course tropical fruit, that will be products, from Europe. “The shelf will largely consist of Dutch products, some European imports and another part will be tropical fruit from all over the world.”
A large part of the fruit and vegetables that the Netherlands tackles is exported to the consumer. Does this export position have a future? “The largest part of the export takes place in Europe. We, the Netherlands, are at the forefront there.”
According to Richard, this is mainly due to the integral aspect of sustainability that the Netherlands is striving for. “Not all attention to one issue, but attention to all problems related to environmental and social sustainability.”
Making the sustainability effort is also an important aspect. This is possible, for example, with the HortiFoot development tool developed by various parties from the fruit and vegetable sector. “It gives a picture of the chain to make a comparison as a producer. That will play an important role.”
This also applies to exports outside Europe. “We are also able to sustainably produce and deliver a number of products, such as onions and top fruit, beyond a radius of about 850 kilometres.” It is important that the emphasis is placed on quality and distinctiveness in the range, packaging and taste of presentation.
The fruit and vegetable sector regularly increases costs, in particular wage costs, and the availability of personnel. Richard sees automation as a solution to that problem. “In the years to come, there will be more work with precision farming, drones and perhaps also with harvesting and other auxiliary robots.”
While fewer staff may be needed, there is always a need for employees to remain. “As the Netherlands, we are not in a bad position as an employer. In general, good working conditions and a suitable vest are provided – and production personnel are available.”
Although Richard considers the production costs to be high, he does not see that the consequence will be that production from the Netherlands will disappear, especially because the Netherlands is a knowledge industry for which practical experience is a requirement. “If you don’t have a ‘practice garden’ in the Netherlands, it is difficult to build up knowledge and sell the knowledge.”
He does not believe that the Netherlands will only play a role in the future as a producer of niche products. “In the Netherlands we are good at agriculture and horticulture. We are good at high-quality and other production methods and we have fertile soils. We are good at, for example, the chemical industry.”
But the Dutch infrastructure and the strong sector also speak in favor of the Dutch production of fruit and vegetables. “Many products from all over the world enter the Dutch ports and can be distributed very quickly from the Netherlands to other countries by companies that can provide added value for this, by maturing, compiling a wide range and just-in-time. all major European supermarkets supply exactly what they want.”
Sjaak van der Tak, chairman of LTO Nederland, the entrepreneurs’ organization for Dutch farmers and horticulturists, certainly does not see the production of fruit and vegetables leaving the Netherlands. “I’m completely positive about that.”
For Sjaak, sustainability is the biggest assignment and he expects that the innovative capacity of Dutch growers will play a major role. “It is thanks to the innovative craftsmanship that we have an intention in this assignment.”
He does see some attention, however, if the Netherlands wants to maintain the lead. One of these is market power. Together with the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM), LTO Nederland has started an exploratory process to identify the scope available to shape the market differently. “In order to improve and strengthen that market power, we are looking at that market power to organize. In my opinion, the Netherlands should claim and offer more space for this.”
In the market conditions, the LTO discussion does see a change in mental focus on vegetables and fruit from Dutch production. He argues that it is inevitable that the price of these products will go up. “Logically, because it is a top-quality product. A dime on fruit and vegetables, that does not scare most consumers.”
He sees that there are opportunities for healthy food and organic products. He also points out that many common products are also produced sustainably and he believes that consumers should be able to choose various types of fruit and various production methods, depending on the consumers. “We can just put that next to each other in the supermarket. If we approach it that way, I’m downright positive about it.”
Sjaak indicates that in any case, the theme of healthy nutrition, especially as we slowly come out of the corona pandemic, should be central on the agenda. Income politics could be a guiding element in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, he says. “In an income policy sense, we will reduce the first pay bracket in terms of taxes, avoiding more income left over.”
Another aspect that Sjaak brings with him is the financing of sustainability. He argues in favor of using the application of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU more, as in the past, for food security and income support and to suffer less, such as social wishes. There would be room for the grower to make investments in sustainability from the company income.
That is, but the CAP must serve the ultimate goal, so that the grower can make that sustainability move himself. You do this by helping in the eco-schemes with support. We supply really top quality fruit and vegetables in Europe and then the eco-schemes should be a reward for what is produced.”
Incidentally, Sjaak is of the opinion that more money is needed to be able to give shape to all sustainability objectives. “The Netherlands has a positive position and if we want to keep it, money is needed.”
Although he is also important for the future, he also sees other development for the development of the world population. “Within a year, the world will grow people. It is a policy of development to be developed, so that growth occurs, the population can be provided with food.”
If the world is insufficiently able to feed the entire world, that instability and population movements arise. “There is a need to face this problem in a European context, fed from the Netherlands, as well: exports help to prevent hunger in the world.”
Level playing field
The LTO foreman sees crop protection as another bottleneck in the production of fruit and vegetables. “Constantly, legal resources are being abolished without having to be collected in return. Europe must adapt its legislation on that point. , years and not the now five to six years and resources should not be abolished too quickly, so that also in Europe a more level playing field is created compared to, for example, the United States.”
In addition, the aim is not always to avoid the use of plant protection products completely. “Sometimes a legal remedy, which is used a number of times, is much possible for the yield of the crop and in the prevention of diseases and pests.”
In addition, at a political level, the LTO chairman should also face the issue of crop protection. In addition, he sees the application of additive modification – to reduce crop protection through better resistance – as a logical step. “Europe must stay ahead, be innovative and not wait to adopt these new technologies.” Sjaak notes that there is a different movement in the position on the application of cisgenesis. “Where the Netherlands was previously reluctant and even opposed, a turning point is now visible.”
This article faster in edition 7-8, 35 volume of Primeur See for this www.agfprimeur.nl.