Business opportunities for Dutch horticulture in Colombia
by admin | Oct 27, 2020 | Noticias
For many years, Dutch horticulturalists are exporting their products and transferring their knowledge abroad. In many countries, the Dutch products and methods are being used, but there are always opportunities to expand further. In yesterday's Xpert Theatre webinars during the GreenTechLive & Online event, the Dutch business opportunities in South Korea (for the floriculture industry), Argentina and Colombia (for the vegetable industry) have been presented by the Dutch Embassies in these countries. Overall, we can see that there is a lack of knowledge among growers in these countries, which are mostly growing in low to medium tech greenhouses. Also post harvest loss is quite an issue for which they are eagerly looking for a solution. The Dutch Embassies stressed that they are very willing to help with any issues regarding entering this market.
What about vegetables grown in Colombia? With Colombia's ever growing cities (in size and population) feeding the cities and sustainable development of the horticulture sector in Colombia is a priority for LAN Bogota, explains Andres Santana Bonilla, Agricultural Advisor. Horticulture has become top of their list and they are eager to make Colombia an agricultural powerhouse. However, there are challenges to overcome. Inadequate agro-logistics infrastructure, along with complex geographical characteristics - 75% of the rural areas are more than four hour away from one of the 18 main cities. This also entails high costs are also preventing farmers from exporting the products. According to Bonilla, out of the 106 agricultural products with export potential, only 36 are currently being exported. Food loss and waste (34 percent of which 62% percent are fruits and vegetables) is another factor to improve, as well as protected cropping offers opportunities. Nowadays, even though greenhouse technology is not new in Colombia (mainly used for the flower production), currently a big portion of vegetables are produced in open field systems.
So what are the Dutch perspectives for the development of the horticultural sector in Colombia? Arno van der Maden of N&S del Tropico highlighted several points out of their study "Taste the Future - Food for thought", conducted last year and published in June 2020. He explains there are three types of growers. Between 10-15 percent are determined to professional growers, mainly growing in medium tech greenhouses, supplying to chain stores in high strata and special restaurants. Hey grow mainly cherry tomato and different varieties lettuce, zucchini, bell peppers and have GAP and organic certifications. Then came the food producers who grow in lower tech greenhouses with some kind of mechanization and the more conventional products with hardly any GAP certifications. Last is food farmers who mainly grow on the field and have very basic greenhouse. Their customers are local, in the area, and the intermediation, till the product gets to the market, is high and products are not certified.
Over the years, the market has changed from the more traditional to the more special varieties, like colored peppers and tomatoes, tomatoes on the vine, organic and so on. The out of home market is rapidly growing with a larger demand for healthy products.
Poverty is decreasing in Colombia. The middle and higher class is growing and these classes are demanding for healthier and more expensive food products. Van der Maden explains that the middle income class consumes more veggies than the lower income class and the higher income class is more focused on the organic and certified products.
Regarding the supply chain, there is much to gain. There is a high level of intermediation, the traceability of fresh produce is low, as well as the offer of products, the transport distance of fruit and vegetables is large without a cold chain. In the future, he sees more direct deliveries, an increase in requirements for GAP food and safety in general, efficient and controlled logistics and less, recyclable or biodegradable packaging.
Also for the growers, there is much to gain. They are willing to improve their productivity but are reluctant in investing as the prices for their products are often based on supply and demand.
From this report, RVO developed a strategy with actions and recommendations aiming at increasing presence of Dutch companies and knowledge centres for the sustainable and inclusive development of Colombian horticulture. They suggest two approaches: one aimed at traditional (technical assistance with regard to agro-logistics and roundtable dialogues), low-tech growers (setting up a demonstration unit and Match making step by step) and another aimed at the emerging ‘next generation’ niche growers in Colombia. Finally, a few suggestions are made for a more general ‘explain, excite and explore approach. (More can be read in the Taste the Future report: https://www.rvo.nl/sites/default/files/2020/06/Colombia-report-food-and-horticulture.pdf)
For more information on the GreenTech Live & Online: www.greentech.nl