Arie Veldhuizen, Dutch agricultural counsellor to the Netherlands in Vietnam

"Knowledge and awareness key to Vietnamese growth"

The Vietnamese horticulture industry is upscaling. Better flower and vegetable varieties are being developed and field production is gradually moving towards protected cultivation. The Government has even announced a VND100 trillion (US$4.4 billion) package for developing hi-tech agriculture. It is an unprecedented advantage, but without skilled human resources the sector cannot take full advantage of it. Thus, the demand for knowledge exchange is present and they are therefore looking forward to the upcoming HortEX, that will be held in Vietnam's capital Ho Chi Minh City next week. This is explained by Mr. Arie Veldhuizen, the Dutch agricultural counsellor to the Netherlands in Vietnam.

Arie Veldhuizen.

Flower and vegetables cultivation
In hectares, the production of fruit and vegetables ranks highest (908,000ha), followed by ornamental crops (34,978 ha), floriculture (22,671.9 ha) and trees and bonsai (12,306.2). When looking at the protected cultivation, Vietnam has many greenhouse productions concentrated around the area of Da Lat, in the Lam Dong Province. In 2017, the cultivation in greenhouses on the highlands in and around Da Lat covered an acreage of 3,791 hectares. Flowers are the major crops, but also greenhouse vegetables are being grown. Growers are using low to medium tech plastic greenhouses, and the level of cultivation varies from very simple to medium advanced.

Emerging market
Vietnam, with a population of some 92 million people, is an emerging market and the country‘s exports of Fruits & Vegetables have enjoyed strong growth in the past years, with an average rate of 26.5 per cent a year; from $439 million in 2009 to $3.5 billion in 2017. Furthermore Vietnam has the potential to become one of the world’s largest flower exporters. The sector is expected to show further growth due to strong exports and a strong domestic demand. The Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Vietnam, which will go into effect as of next year, will give an additional boost to the sector.

Upscaling the industry
According to Veldhuizen, the development of technology-based agriculture is essential for the agriculture sector of Vietnam to achieve greater value-added for export products, global competitiveness and consistently high quality.

Over the last years, the industry in Vietnam has been and is still being up-scaled. "The Vietnamese horticulture industry is gradually taking steps moving from traditional open field production to protected cultivation, applying greenhouse technology, precision and automatic irrigation, computerized crop management system. Additionally, better flower and vegetables varieties are being developed by applying hybrid technology as well as post-harvest technology", says Veldhuizen.

In order to boost the hi-tech agriculture, the Government even announced a VND100 trillion (US$4.4 billion) package. It is an unprecedented advantage, but the sector will not take full advantage of it without the awareness of skilled human resources – in management, in science and technology, and in production.

Awareness and knowledge
The industry develops every year, but there is much more to gain, particularly in the field of chain management. Veldhuizen mentions that much can be improved in post-harvest treatment and cold storage. "Growers can cultivate beautiful flowers, but immediately after the harvesting, the flowers are put in a box and loaded on a truck without any treatment or cold storage. So, at the destination, these flowers are damaged and the shelf life is affected dramatically. And this counts for many products in horti- and agriculture. In order to make a change, access to finance, awareness, knowledge exchange and cooperation not only between farmers but through the whole chain is needed."

All in all, the human factor, is extremely important in the entire horticultural and agricultural chain and fortunately, according to Veldhuizen, the awareness of improving the chain by starting to cooperate and exchange knowledge with other growers is arising. "The demand for knowledge implementation is present and with Dutch expertise we can support the further growth of the Vietnamese horticultural sector in the years to come."

From March 14-16, the first edition of the HortEx Vietnam, organized by Nova Exhibitions, will be held in Ho Chi Minh City and according to Veldhuizen, will open doors not only for the Vietnamese grower, but for the Dutch horticultural suppliers as well. "This is the first specialized exhibition and conference for Horticultural and Floricultural Production and Processing Technology in Vietnam. It connects Vietnamese growers with experts from The Netherlands and all over the world, to introduce the new technology, plant materials and products to contribute to high tech agriculture development of the region, especially Vietnam."

Currently HorteX is host to exhibitors from 19 countries including Belgium, China, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey U.S.A. and Vietnam. In total the organizers expects over 100 companies to participate in the exhibition.

Special year
And for Arie Veldhuizen, the Netherlands and Vietnam, 2018 is a special year. Veldhuizen is in his fourth (final) year of being the Dutch agricultural counsellor to Holland in Vietnam and Thailand. Besides that, 2018 marks the 45 years of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Netherlands. This will also be celebrated at the HortEX.

Twitter : @ArieVeldhuizen

HortEX Vietnam

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