Government shouldn’t meddle in a cooperative
Despite having less arable land than India, The Netherlands has a per hectare yield of four times that of India. The secret, says the Dutch Agriculture Minister Sharon Dijksma, is to pool in resources from the private sector and agricultural research institutes with the government acting as a facilitator, and not as an owner or a meddler. Excerpts from an exclusive interview to Smart Agripost:
Despite having very little land, Netherlands is an agricultural super power. How did you achieve this?
Ans. Because of little land we have to use it very efficiently. Private sector, knowledge institutes, government & human capital in all fields work closely, pooling in their expertise. We call it a diamond approach.
Netherlands is also known for a strong cooperative farming system. How is it managed?
Ans. The cooperative movement has been a success because the government doesn’t meddle or interfere. It’s a movement created by farmers, as a bottom up development. Our largest dairy, Friesland Campina, is a cooperative owned by farmers. Same for the Greenery, our largest vegetable and fruits auction. Also flower sector is mainly managed by cooperatives. VION, our largest meat processor is a cooperative. Even one of our largest banks, Rabo-bank is a cooperative.
Your country is also known as the world’s flower market, especially because of the auction system. Do you think similar system could be practiced in India?
Ans. Yes it would be ideal to have an auction in India. Especially, because in India there are many small stakeholders. It becomes important that the flower-growers support the idea of auctions. Else this model would not work. In Netherlands the flower auctions are owned by the flower growers. They join together to be a stronger player in the market. So it is important it’s a bottom up process.
Netherlands is also strong in dairy and animal husbandry. What can India learn?
Ans. The Indian dairy & animal husbandry industry is growing at a rapid pace. The Netherlands can add value to this development with good animal genetics, knowhow in farm and feed management, health products along with instruments and technologies for hygienic and safe food products. Overall, focus should be to use technology to optimize the profits in the chain.
What are the areas for cooperation between the Netherlands and India?
Ans. Both the Indian & the Dutch government have been working together for a few years now. We know that half of India’s population depends on agriculture for income. We will have more mouths to feed in coming decades. In order to do so, we have to not only double the food production but also have to optimally use our natural resources like water, energy, etc. So we look forward to collaborating in various field of agriculture like animal husbandry, cold chain, food processing, food safety etc.
What is the focus of your visit and your meeting with Prime Minister of India?
Ans. India enjoys an excellent economic relationship with Netherlands and both countries are trying to increase bilateral trade. What we see is Prime Minister ( Narendra Modi ) putting issues relating to agriculture into the heart of his policy. Issues on market access for apples & pears coming from Netherlands. So issues related to market access are of high importance to both the countries.
What are the key challenges for agriculture in India?
Ans. It is really important to have a stable policy as Dutch companies are looking for long-term investment. I know the Indian government is working on it. The steps of doing business with Indian should be simplified & also focus should also be on Trade with India. So it’s important that India opens up its markets & lowers tariffs as well.
You are a leading member of European Union. India is facing a number of constraints in export of various products. What is your view in this regard? What are the products India can export?
Ans. I would like to recall that the Netherlands actively supported India in lifting the ban on grapes in 2010, and also recently Netherlands supported the lifting of the ban on Indian mangoes. On bitter gourd, snake gourd, egg-plant and arbi we will discuss in detail with our phytosanitary team and are always willing to see how we could support India on this.