Interview Gert Dral & Michael Min
Dutch Greenhouse Delta (DGD): Industrial clusters of the entire value chain, helps to drive the development of China’s protected agriculture.
In China, the middle class and the need for fresh and safe food are growing rapidly, but at the same time, the Chinese agricultural sector is struggling with several sustainability issues. Dutch knowledge and horticultural experience provide optimal solutions for the development of sustainable agriculture in China. Dutch Greenhouse Delta (DGD) presents the entire horticultural value chain in the Netherlands and cooperates with the Chinese government at several levels in order to contribute to the supply of fresh and safe food in China. Gert Dral, the Head of DGD Asia Pacific, and Michael Min, DGD’s representative in China, discuss the developments in Chinese agriculture and the cooperation with the Chinese government and local companies.
‘’At present, DGD focuses on the needs of the first-tier cities along the coast of China, where the economy is growing rapidly, and the demand for better, fresher, healthier, and safer food is also stronger.’’ Gert Dral explains: ‘’People here are willing to buy safe and high-quality food at reasonable prices. We have carried out many activities in Beijing, Shanghai and Qingdao, and have received strong support from the local government. Most of our partner companies have their own representatives or branches in China. Under such an industrial cluster, we can provide knowledge sharing in every link from agricultural planning, greenhouse design and construction, seeds, operations, and brand marketing.’’
In addition, DGD has also successfully applied to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency for a PIB (Partners for International Business) China project. This PIB for China is funded by the Dutch government to share the cost of entering new markets in China for public and private companies in specific industries. The agreement was signed in January 2021. We have planned a three-year program to better promote the development of Dutch enterprises in China within three years. We organize various publicity activities, like seminars, and industrial dialogues, and we actively participate in industry exhibitions such as IPM and HortiChina. The embassy has also established two liaisons, to support PIB’s activities in China. One is Mr. Nick Hong who has worked as an Agriculture Officer at the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Shanghai for over 25 years, and the other is Pan Mengyao who has worked as an Agriculture Officer at the Dutch Embassy in Beijing. Both are experienced in horticulture and Chinese government relations
For each cooperation in China, detailed market research is conducted. Gert Dral clarifies: “According to the local climatic conditions, regional market conditions, and the greenhouse function that the planted products are designed to meet, there is no greenhouse in China that is exactly the same. We must take the time to understand the needs of both parties, respect each other, and work towards the same goal in order to achieve a win-win situation.”
The DGD model is very practical in the Chinese market. DGD includes local Chinese companies in the cooperation, e.g. in finding local materials to reduce costs and participating in local operations. Basic materials such as glass, steel, and aluminum can be sourced locally, while core components and knowledge come from the Netherlands. The Dutch horticulture industry has been active in China for over a decade and has built many successful projects in China, but many of them are built by the local government as demonstration projects. Gert Dral: ‘’In recent years, Chinese local governments have paid more and more attention to the development of horticulture and to the practical application and operation of greenhouses and sales of the products, rather than a mere display project. The Chinese government is also actively seeking knowledge and experience from the Netherlands on how to reduce long-term high investments in subsequent operations and manpower after the greenhouse is built’’. Dutch companies face intense competition in the Chinese market. But in a team with an all-value model, there is less competition and there are more channels to win. This model, not only promotes Dutch horticultural technology and makes investors profitable, but also allows Chinese consumers to enjoy delicious, high-quality, and safe products.