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Cooperation Westland with partner city Dezhou continued

With more than 5.7 million inhabitants, the north-eastern Chinese city of Dezhou is one of stature. To provide all these residents with safely grown food, the board sought cooperation with Westland in 2016.

At the moment, a delegation from the city of Dezhou is travelling through Westland, including Wang Haixu, from the Rural Revitalisation Group of Dezhou City, people's representative Chen Peng, and delegates from media and various art forms. Several companies will be visited, as well as the World Horti Center and Tomato World, where yesterday's agenda included a meeting with Ivo Meijer, Municipality of Westland, and Arne Weverling, now a member of the Provincial Council of South Holland, and Sjaak van der Tak, chairman of LTO Netherlands.

A renewed meeting took place yesterday at Tomato World and they explored how to continue the cooperation. According to Wang Haixu, Dezhou has many opportunities for the agribusiness, with an excellent logistics network in addition. "Currently, we produce 6.5 million tonnes of vegetables annually," he told us. "We are committed to developing this further, and want Dezhou to be a production and demonstration centre for food production." That role will be played by the China Dezhou Innovation and Industry Park, which is currently under development.

What is the Netherlands' role in this? Sjaak and Arne are familiar with the region. In 2017, the then mayor and alderman travelled to Dezhou, and several delegations travelled to the Netherlands. At the time, there were also plans to establish a World Horti Centre in Dezhou itself, but this has not yet been followed up. Now that there are finally opportunities to see each other again after the pandemic, Sjaak van der Tak also stressed the importance of relationships during and after the pandemic. "We are jointly looking towards 2030. Towards cooperation in agriculture, but also in other areas, like the artworks on display. On these relationships we will build further."

The different parties also discussed that the Netherlands and China can learn from each other. Ivo Meijer explained how Dutch growers are working together to face challenges such as the energy crisis. "Jointly, geothermal heat sources have been established. This is possible thanks to cooperation between growers. This would create opportunities for Chinese growers: instead of operating individually, packaging facilities could be shared, for example, and joint action could be taken to retail." He also stressed the importance of cultivation knowledge. "You can have all the robots, data and computers at your disposal, but someone with green fingers has to manage and control them. Continuing to train growers is indispensable in this."

After visiting Tomato World, the delegation was shown around the World Horti Center by Aad Verduin of World Horti Tours.

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