Advanced agriculture in the Netherlands shows potential for Bangladesh and food processors are set to benefit from Dutch expertise and technology after a high-level government and business delegation, led by the agriculture minister, concluded a visit to the Netherlands.

Bangladesh has ambitions to greatly expand its fruit and vegetable exports and food processing capacity and hopes to emulate the success of the small European country, which is the largest fresh vegetable exporter in the world and the world’s second largest exporter of agri-food products.

Minister of Agriculture Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque was accompanied by Dr. Md. Ruhul Amin Talukder, Additional Secretary (project planning and co-ordination), MOA; Mr. Mohammed Yousuf, Director-General of the Department of Agricultural Marketing; Farhana Iris, Joint Secretary, MOA; Dr. Ferdouse Islam, Chief Scientific Officer, Horticulture Research Centre, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute; and Dr. Jagot Chand Malaker and Rita Dey, Deputy Directors of the Department of Agriculture Extension.

Several captains of industry joined the mission, including Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, chairman and chief executive officer of Pran Foods; Md. Parvez Saiful Islam, chief operating officer of Square Food and Beverage; Kazi Inam Ahmed, director of the Gemcon Group; and Mostafa Kamal, chairman and managing director of the Meghna Group of Industries; and Dr. FH Ansarey, managing director and CEO of ACI Agrolink.

Jahangir Hossain, president of the Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters Association, also joined the mission along with other MOA officials and representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Netherlands, M Riaz Hamidullah, oversaw the planning of the mission.

Speaking at the end of the official trip, Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said that Bangladesh will benefit from Dutch technology and know-how. “The mission has been very successful and we have learned much about opportunities for technological support for increasing agricultural productivity and the processing value addition chain. To be competitive in the global market in terms of price, quality, and safety, I think it’s important to keep updated with the latest technology and how we can take some of them back home to increase productivity.

“Productivity here is very high and how they manage post-harvest handling is impressive. They produce many high value products. They also import some of the commodities-fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, flowers and they export to different countries in the world, including Europe and the USA.”

Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque met the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tom de Bruijn, and the Dutch vice minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The delegation visited numerous locations during the visit including the World Horticulture Center, Wageningen University and Research, a water management and information technology company, one of the world’s biggest onion exporting companies, a leading vegetable storage and processing company, as well as a range of other agriculture companies who grow and process produce which is exported around the world.

“We have made important links between businesses, entrepreneurs, and exporters involved in international agri-business and we will develop this network”, Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said. “In the business circle here, we have put Bangladesh on their agenda.”

FAO supported the delegation through its Hand-in-Hand initiative that brings together countries with high agricultural potential together with developed countries that have efficient and developed agricultural sectors. It encourages countries to define priorities and identify investment gaps and encourage knowledge sharing and private sector investment.

It was announced that there will be a trade mission from the Netherlands to Bangladesh by March next year. In addition, potato and onion experts from the Netherlands will train officials from the department of Agriculture Extension who will then train farmers. MOA and Wageningen University and Research will sign a letter of intent that will include PhD and masters degree places and scholarships. The delegation is now starting a mission to the United Kingdom.

FAO Representative in Bangladesh, Robert D. Simpson, said: “Through Hand-in-Hand, FAO is supporting the Ministry of Agriculture to understand market priorities over the next 10 to 20 years and to formulate investment strategies that will help transform the agriculture sector to be more productive and meet future nutritional and economic needs.

“The Netherlands is a world leader in fruit and vegetable exports and food processing, and very efficient in terms of agricultural productivity. The country has been a strong supporter of food safety, water resources management and agricultural development in Bangladesh for many decades. The connections made and knowledge shared during this mission is a great opportunity for continued exchange and partnership, bringing new opportunities for farmers, food businesses, and agricultural students.”