Statistics on the Netherlands export industry according to David McDonald, an Undergraduate in Economics and Public Management in the University of Guelph, has shown that, they are the second biggest agricultural exporter in the world, with only the USA exporting more, and it’s in the world’s top three producers of fruit and vegetables, and still expect these trends to continue in the near future.
This is so, because the Netherlands places a great deal of importance on educating their agricultural workforce. As Wageningen University is the world’s number one institution for agricultural education, more so, twelve of the world’s biggest food and drink companies have research and development facilities in the Netherlands, and among them are Danone and Heinz.
Located in central Europe, the Netherlands is perfectly placed geographically for exports and has an excellent infrastructure, and another sector that is currently enjoying a high logistics, which has enabled the Dutch become experts at trading, and although profit margins are tight, they have been able to develop a healthy, sustainable and profitable agricultural sector that is accepted worldwide.
Exports from Dutch farming were worth a staggering 85 billion Euros in 2016 alone; which was a new record. The Netherlands export its farming produce far and wide, including eggs to the American market, apples and pears to Vietnam, and the German’s seem to love Dutch produce, as they account for 25% of all exports.
In the wake of these, the Dutch government has sent its first Agricultural Counselor Bram Wits, to West Africa to further strengthen the ties between the Netherlands and the sub-region.
Speaking at his first engagement with members of the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARFJA) at the Netherlands Embassy in Accra on 27th July, 2018, ever since he was posted to Ghana as the Agric counsellor to oversee Dutch Agric activities in the West African sub-region, Bram said, the Netherlands was ready to avail its expertise that has made its agricultural sector what it is today, to Ghana and West Africa as a whole.
According to him, over there in Europe, they see West Africa as a very exciting partner and thus, wants to engage with the region since it’s very much dependent on each other. Adding that, “We want to create a foothold for Dutch agriculture in West Africa.”
He said, the Dutch economy relies heavily on the agriculture sector and on exports, to the tune of 83% of its GDP, which explains why they can export so much food.
Adding that, they are the sixth largest economy in the eurozone and so the Forex market is an important factor in determining the overall economic growth and profits from export. The growth in agricultural exports reflects what seems to be a broader upturn in the Dutch economy.
Mr. Wits intimated that, a half of the total hectares of land in the Netherlands has been reserved as farmland with about 56% being used for arable and horticultural crops.
However, he unveiled his committed to ensuring the engagement between Ghana and the Netherlands would be harmonized and also benefits both countries, to solidify the relationship.
Bram again revealed that, in as much as they can make money from West Africa, they are rather focusing on bringing in the tools needed to help develop the agricultural sector here in Ghana and West Africa as a whole in order for us to grow together, and not to take an undue advantage of us.
He said, “the Netherlands is different from other donors based on the programs we run. The embassy is active in three sub-sectors namely cocoa, palm oil and horticulture, and these programmes have been running for four years. The sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Program (SWAP) increases productivity of SMEs in palm oil. The embassy supports smallholder farmers, mill owners and processors. SWAP increases the quality of the produced palm oil and the profitability and sustainability of the businesses.
The GhanaVeg is also a program that promotes quality vegetables from Ghana through new ways of doing business. It supports Ghanaian companies in the vegetable sector with business-led activities: a vegetable Business Platform that assembles all actors in the value chain; funds that finance innovation and a high level dialogue between the sector and the government. The Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Program (CORIP) also improves sustainable cocoa production and increases economic returns for cocoa farmers.”
At the engagement, Mr. Richmond Frimpong, President of the Ghana Agricultural and Rural Development Journalists Association (GARDJA), which partnered the Netherlands embassy for the program emphasized that, Ghana should take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the Dutch agricultural system to aid Ghana improve upon its own sector in order to boost its economy.
Mr. Frimpong said, for instance, Commercial farmers in the Netherlands mostly rely solely on organic manure for best agriculture practices which we could also adopt.
According him, as Ghana’s agricultural sector’s sustainability become more topical, he was very optimistic this partnership will encourage the formulation of policies in favour of a more sustainable agricultural value chain.
He underscored the need for a new paradigm approach in the agricultural sector on the continent in a way that will treat it as a lucrative business to ensure that, farms are more productive enough to earn more from their labour. This he noted, will attract the younger generations to venture into the agricultural sector.