Agribusiness: Cooperation, a message from the Netherlands to Slovenia!

Boosting entrepreneurship and innovativeness in the field of agriculture and food, that was the aim of Thursday’s closing conference of the competition Agribusiness in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The Netherlands Embassy was one of the main partners of the event organized by Finance, the leading financial newspaper in the country.

Slovene Agriculture Minister Dejan Zidan pointed out that agriculture in Slovenia is making profit after many years of uncertainty. Jointly with Czech and Slovak colleagues he is proposing improvements in the food supply chain in Brussels next week. Although the situation in the Slovene agro and food sector improved in the last two years, there is a continuous search for best practices from other countries. All the more so, since Slovenia has a self-sufficiency rate of only 40%. Therefore, it is especially looking at the Netherlands, being a global leader in innovative food solutions.

In his opening speech the Ambassador spoke about the growing world population that asks for more and more agricultural products, while the earth is already being overcharged. This situation shows the need for more sustainable, innovative ways of production. The Dutch agro and food sector is working on this for many years: on a number of aspects such as food security, waste disposal, animal welfare, education, fair society, governance and habitation. Nowadays, the Netherlands does not only export products, but also knowledge, technology and innovations. There is a specific focus on cooperation, among farmers, companies, researchers and the government.

Dutch key note speaker and agricultural expert Raymond Tans elaborated further on the aspect of cooperation and explained that 70% of Dutch agricultural products are marketed by cooperatives. This mode of working together seems to be a success formula for the Netherlands, being the second largest exporter of agro and food products in the world. According to Tans, Slovenia should let go of the doubtful feelings about big farms, cooperatives and EU’s regulated producer organizations. Against that background, Tans recommended to try to overreach small scale production, which in Slovenia is seen as the only way to produce safe and healthy food. However, small scale production is not necessarily better than big scale, and often mass production is more efficient and sustainable. As an example, he mentioned the large-scale tomato production in Dutch green houses that needs five liters of water per kilo, while in Spain in the open air, the production of one kilo needs seventy liters.

Concerning cooperatives and producer organizations, Tans summed up a couple of advantages: working in cooperatives gives producers more market power and better prices and it limits the market risks. Furthermore, it strengthens the producers’ position in the food supply chain and it provides a modern and effective way for sustainable production and marketing. The information was received by the Slovenes with great interest.