The Dutch roots of Brazilian horticulture region Holambra

In the years following WWII, the Dutch government acquired a large territory in Brazil. Many Dutch growers have emigrated to this area throughout the years. The Dutch horticultural consultancy Horti-Consult visited the region during their annual trip abroad. Gilbert Heijens reports.

In the years following WWII, the Dutch government acquired a large territory in Brazil. Many Dutch growers have emigrated to this area throughout the years. The Holambra Colony was founded by the Catholic Church. The name comes from HOLlandAMerikaBRAzilie (Holland America Brazil), as the colony was set up with funding from the governments of these three countries. Brazil participated to develop inland. The plots were distributed among the emigrants.

In these colonies, learning the Portuguese language wasn’t considered important. The cooperative took care of all the emigrants’ needs. In 1960, electricity was installed. Holambra had a poor soil fertility and climate for growers from the Netherlands was far from optimal. After many failed harvests, between 700 and 800 Dutch settlers remained (meaning 80% went back to Holland). Today, many of the farms are run by third generation growers, who barely speak Dutch. Holambra has about 12,000 inhabitants. In recent years, mostly flowers are grown – most of these flogged at a local auction. However, prices are low and therefore some growers are now switching to vegetables.

Agricultural sector in Holambra
Grassland was not financially viable in the region. But because of the horse breeding, the demand for grassland increasing. Horticulture is highly developed in the area. 5000 ha is in use by cooperative members of the Holambra auction. It is difficult to find personnel in the region. Many people flock to the city of Sao Paulo to work in the industry. Wages in horticulture average 700 USD / month.

Rijk Zwaan
Some seed companies set up business in Holambra. One is Rijk Zwaan. Recently, the company moved into a new facility, having formerly bunked with Theo Vermeulen. Theo is 51 years old and born in Brazil (Holambra). For years he has worked at Rijk Zwaan, but eventually started his own horticultural business, mostly involving plastic greenhouses with wooden base.

As it stands, Rijk Zwaan’s new location is already too small. The expansion possibilities at the site are limited, and thus the search is on for a better location in Holambra.

Mallmann Tomatoes in the Florenzo region
Mallmann Tomatoes is located outside the horticultural Holambra zone. The company covers an area of 4 hectares, where are grown cocktail tomatoes of the Bellastar (Sakata) variety. The company consists of plastic greenhouses with Venlo construction. The substructure is made up of high wooden poles. It is a ZON-type greenhouse because the rows are perpendicular to the ridge.

The operation works with a Piva Computer. At those sections where the drip system doesn’t fully work, two buckets are put on each other to increase the buffer for the plant. All produce is packed and labeled with its own label and shipped to supermarkets in Sao Paulo.

See the photo report here.

More information:
Gilbert Heijens
Horti-Consult International

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