It should not come as a surprise by now that Jan Robben, authority on strawberries, travels all over the world. Still, you don´t expect strawberries to be grown in the Himalayas. By instructions of Stichting Programma Uitzending Managers (PUM), Jan went over there for a twelve-day trip to bring the cultivation there to a higher level. "In principle you can grow strawberries all over the world, if the nights are relatively cool and the days not too hot. Everybody likes strawberries."
The main objective of the trip was advancing a trade company in Kathmandu, where they have started with an example garden to share knowledge with local growers about the cultivation of vegetables and strawberries. "They have started small scale experiments with tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, and some other produce. For example, they had cucumber on the wire in a greenhouse full of cauliflower."
Jan had the task to transfer his knowledge on, for example, the field of irrigation and fertilization. "The options are limited over there, you have to take that into account. People, however, are very creative. If it cannot be done as it should, it should be done as it can, that is their strategy.
The cucumber greenhouse, also growing cauliflower.
Into the mountains
Of course, Jan visited some strawberry growers in the Himalayas. The growth of strawberries high up in the Nepalese mountains has a lot of interest, Jan found out. "The working conditions are very hard, but only in the Kakani districts already 175 growers can be found, although all have only small areas. In spite of this, it looked very promising."
For the coming year, the expectation is that there will be 250 growers in the area. "The soil is fertile and plenty. When the sales of strawberries remain as successful as now, the cultivation will surely keep on growing." The strawberries are sold together through a Japanese company that sells strawberries in the capital Kathmandu. "A part of the population does have money, and there are plenty of tourists. The consumer prices are, converted, around 9 euro per kilo, of which 3 to 4 euro is for the grower, depending on quality."
Any moment now Jan is again going to another far, mountainous country, this time Colombia. "Here I will try to assist a trainer project to give the Colombian horticulture some extra support. Colombian growers want to grow an international acceptable product to export, but they lack the knowledge to achieve that. They also want a cleaner product. We can help them, for example in a demonstration greenhouse built by Dutch companies to show Dutch technology to local growers."
Meanwhile, they are also working in The Netherlands to bring Colombian horticulture to a higher level. In the World Horti Center, a horti-simulator greenhouse is built, in which the Colombian climate can be simulated.
Working for Flevo Berry
Jan was at that moment at a conference in Karsruhe, where the Erdbeer-und Spargelmesse was held. "Since November 21, I am supporting strawberry breeder Flevo Berry, to begin at this conference. I will mostly be collecting experiences of growers and research institutes with their varieties, to fine tune the cultivation concepts."
About the strawberry cultivation in Nepal, Jan wrote a report full of recommendations. When the growers have followed the recommendations, we will go back. Maybe in about a year." But first, Colombia.
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