The Dutch trade mission to Japan took place last week. Some of the participants included Remko Bakelaar, of Vijverberg Advies, and Michel Kauderer, of Verkade Klimaat. How was the trade mission and what are the opportunities for the industry in Japan?
The Dutch agro-food sector is very attractive for Japan. It is not for nothing that as many as three Japanese Ministers and Prime Minister Abe have visited the Dutch agricultural and horticultural sector. In short, there are opportunities for Dutch companies and institutions here. Dutch horticultural entrepreneurs were encouraged with these words to participate in the trade mission to Japan, which was held last week.
Michel Kauderer, Verkade Klimaat, took part in the mission. "Our objective was to broaden our network and make new contacts," he says. Verkade Klimaat is currently taking its first steps in Japan, with two hectares of Ultra-Clima being built at the moment in Yamanashi under the KUBO flag. "You hear rumours about the country's demand growing considerably in the coming years. A lot needs to be done, but if we can take advantage of that, it will be a good thing."
Remko Bakelaar making a presentation to the king and queen
If you are unknown, you are unloved
For Remko Bakelaar, of Vijverberg Advies, the approach was different. He has already been active in Japan for a few years with market research and making contacts. Earlier this year it was announced that a project would come out from such efforts. He made a presentation about this to the king and queen.
In the future, Bakelaar sees more opportunities. "The king said that the Netherlands can contribute to the building of the Japanese horticultural sector. We have to turn that into projects, and we must do that together." By this he means showing Dutch techniques and projects. "It's not just about sales, but also about improving Japanese horticulture. We have already demonstrated that if we work together, there are many possibilities."
From the Japanese project where Bakelaar is involved, he knows how difficult it can be. "If you are unknown, you are unloved. We explain what we can do, but I am now back in the Netherlands. A Japanese vendor is there twelve months a year. Me? Perhaps eight weeks. We must therefore show that we can really make a difference through local people."
For Kauderer, the potential of Japan, but also the importance of cooperation, are evident. "You need to complement one another; we cannot just launch our heating system in the market, you also need a greenhouse builder, or a supplier of lamps. It is also good if we show what a Viscon can bring in terms of transport. Everyone with their own specialities."
And after the construction of the greenhouse, there is still work to do. "We have seen beautiful glass greenhouses, only a few years old. Their production does not exceed 16 kilos per year." The delegation had participants from various horticultural segments. "Someone like Jim Grootscholte, of the pepper nursery 4Evergreen, immediately sees what needs to be done with the crop. This creates opportunities for consultancies like GreenQ. It is not enough to set up a Formula-1 greenhouse if you don't know how to drive it; for those guys, there is work in store."
GreenQ also had the opportunity to present their project in Japan to the royal couple. In a signed letter of intent it was outlined how they will build an "Improvement Centre" in Japan, offer training and seminars and carry out DLV Plant-GreenQ exchanges of personnel.
Incotec and JA Zen-Noh presented cooperation on Thermo Seed.
Does the strength of the delegation matter? According to Bakelaar, it certainly does. "For years, we have emphasised the relevance of Dutch techniques. If a king, a queen and Ministers come to say the same thing, it is not a mere repetition of the message, as it is conveyed differently."
Kauderer also appreciates the influence of the ministers. For example, in Japan an aversion against glass greenhouses still seemed to prevail. "There was a preference for plastic, namely because of the earthquakes. At one point, Minister Kamp asked if he could do something to help, and when we mentioned this, he instantly made it possible for the subject to be negotiable. The presence of Mayor Sjaak van der Tak, a great representative for Westland, was also very influential." The participation of other sectors also helped ensure Bakelaar and Kauderer's success.
What results does such a trade mission bring? "We have met potential candidates to collaborate with in Japan," says Kauderer. In addition to cooperating with Dutch companies, having a Japanese partner is also important. "You need someone who knows the market - a Japanese company." But only a week after returning it is of course impossible to say whether something concrete will come out.
"Due to the size of the delegation we have, in any case, we come in contact with other people," says Bakelaar. "For this reason alone I would recommend others to take part in such trade missions. By meeting entrepreneurs from other sectors, you expand your network. That does not necessarily result in increased trade or revenue, but you learn from it."
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