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horticulture sector in Central Asia developing rapidly
"To make money, you need more than just technology and money"
Put down a nice greenhouse, pop some plants in and make money. The demand for greenhouse vegetables may be large in Central Asia, yet it isn't quite that easy. Alex van Winden is involved with AIMC Horticulture in making horticulture projects turnover in this region among others.
Georgia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan... These are countries where was hardly any horticulture present five years ago, but where the sector is currently rapidly developing due to the growing demand for safely grown vegetables of high quality. "The level of the horticulture in the Greenfield states (red: countries where high tech horticulture has been around for less than five years) obviously can't beat the level of the sector in the Netherlands," says Alex. "In the Netherlands it is often already the third generation in control of the horticulture businesses. There is a lot of knowledge and experience and investment in the right techniques. This makes the Netherlands stand head and shoulders above the rest."
However, this doesn't matter for AIMC's work. They support making horticultural projects profitable. They don't necessarily focus on glass greenhouses, but on the high tech foil greenhouses. "The results are good and the costs much lower. With the climate in these areas you can get good results in foil greenhouses." And the sector is in development, both in area and level of cultivation. "In Mexico horticulture has gone from a few hundred to 12,000 hectares. We see similar potential in other countries."
AIMC is focusing on high tech foil greenhouses.
Besides Mexico, AIMC is active in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. At the moment they are involved in projects in Georgia and Kazakhstan and in Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, the first projects are soon to start. "In recent years almost all old technologies have been stopped and around 150 hectares of modern greenhouses have been built. Mainly cucumber and tomato are grown in the greenhouses, and the first initiatives in lettuce and herbs are on their way," says Alex. He estimates that two thirds of the production goes to Russia. "And consumption in Russia is low compared to that in Turkey: only 1/4 of the Turkish consumption, despite the price level being high."
AIMC Horticulture-director Alex van Winden with two project managers.
Money and technology
There are now a lot of initiatives for modern horticulture in the country, but the investment of money and technology alone isn't sufficient to make money in this sector. "The limiting factors at the moment are the available techniques and in particular the training of the operational management. There is also little light available, which makes producing tomato for the fresh market expensive," says Alex. "On the other hand, due to the low gas price and the market sticking out, Kazakhstan and the other 'custom union countries' have a good starting position."
Each country has their own problems too. "The problem in Kazakhstan is the large role of the government in starting up horticulture. There are more than twenty products financed by government bank Kazagrofinance, but this bank is no longer active due to the loss of millions. They turn out to be special markets."
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Publication date: 1/24/2018
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