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The Netherlands, famed for its prize tulips, is the world’s third-largest exporter of agriculture products and a leader in high-tech market gardening, dairy farming, and modern food supply chain management “from farm to fork.” Agricultural sector productivity in the Netherlands has grown enormously in the past few decades, largely due to high-quality training for farmers, first-class research activities in relevant areas, and an effective system to communicate critical information to farmers. The APO, as an advocator and supporter of food safety and quality management, dispatched an observational study mission to the Netherlands in collaboration with the Wageningen Expertise Centre for Chain and Network Studies (WCNS) of Wageningen UR.
The five-day mission on Building Reliable, Safe, Green Food Supply Chains, 1−5 April 2008, examined all key aspects of food supply chains in the Netherlands. The 13 participants investigated the Netherlands’ food marketing system, roles and functions of each player in the supply chain, and related technology-intensive systems.
The mission first visited the Agricultural Economics Research Institute of Wageningen UR (LEI). WCNS Director Dr. Jacques Trienekens and Ruud van Ufflen of LEI explained the horticultural sector, agricultural markets, and food supply chains of the Netherlands. The tour of Naktuinbouw, a nonprofit inspection service organization for horticulture, deepened the participants’ understanding of value-added seed quality control practices.
On the second day, FloraHolland, the Netherland’s foremost cooperative flower auction center, hosted the participants before they traveled to the commercial supplier Haluco to learn about its interwoven network of contractors, clients, and growers, both foreign and domestic. In the afternoon, participants observed the innovative award-winning energy-producing greenhouse at the university research center of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture. They also listened to a presentation on greenhouses as a source of innovation at the Foundation for Innovation in Greenhouse Horticulture (SIGN) presented by Hans Koehorst. Koehorst also introduced Horticulture 2020, a special project to guarantee that Dutch greenhouse horticulture is socially respected and economically successful over the long term by 2020. “The innovation on the greenhouse was outstanding. It not only improves the efficiency of the greenhouse but also proves the concept that a greenhouse can be a source of energy,” commented Executive Director Tan Jin Soon, GS1 Singapore Council-cum-Member of the Singapore Standards Council, SPRING.
On the morning of the third day, participants visited the Product Board for Horticulture, a statutory industrial organization funded by an average levy of 1% on producers, traders, and industries operating within the horticultural sector. Wim Moningka of the Product Board for Horticulture gave an introduction to the work of the board. The second speaker was Auke Heins of Holland Production Promotion, the marketing and communication office for Dutch growers of potatoes, vegetables, and fruit. Heins described various promotion programs including the 2+2 campaign, which has the goal of achieving consumer consumption of the recommended daily intake of two pieces of fruit and 200 grams of vegetables. Peter Ravensbergen of Flowers&Food introduced the Winning Value 2008–2012 project, which aims to encourage innovation by all involved in Dutch horticulture. Hessing, a leading vegetable and fruit cutting company, opened its factory to the participants to show the processes involved in supplying consumers with fresh, safe products. The third day’s schedule ended with a presentation by Marcel Stallen of Fresh Studio Innovations Asia (FSIA). FSIA is an international consulting, R&D, and trade company in the fruit and vegetable industry. He explained the value chain approach of FSIA and its projects in Vietnam, the Philippines, and P.R. China.
On the fourth day, participants attended three lectures in Wageningen UR. The session started with a presentation by Associate Professor Dr. Annet Velthuis, Wageningen University Business Economics Group, on the economic and legal aspects of food safety in the EU. The second speaker, Camiel Aalberts of the Advisory Food Safety Capacity Building of Wageningen International, spoke on the governance of food safety. Dr. Olaf van Kooten, Wageningen University Horticultural Supply Chains Group, explained his research activities on future horticulture in Western Europe. In the afternoon, participants visited Friesland Foods Western Europe, a multinational company producing and selling dairy products, fruit drinks, and food ingredients. Manager of Food Safety Idwin Bouman provided a company briefing and explained the food safety and quality assurance measures taken by the company before conducting a tour of the fruit juice processing plant.
The mission ended with participants taking part in the annual Kom in de Kas (come in the greenhouse)”festival, which celebrates Dutch cultivation under glass. APO participants jointed local visitors in learning how growers produce safe, fresh products. Participants were more than satisfied with the study mission. “We saw and studied many wonderful systems, organizations, and process. We may not able to apply everything in our country, but most of our learning will be used someday within our organizations,” commented Senior Manager Nihal Senerath, Jaykay Marketing Services (Pvt.), Sri Lanka.
At the Kom in de Kas festival: