India-Netherlands Agricultural CooperationThe Possibilities are Endless

India enjoys an excellent economic relationship with The Netherlands, and both countries are trying to increase bilateral trade. The Netherlands has world-class expertise in water management, biotechnology, agriculture, agro processing, dairy farming, horticulture, and floriculture. On her visit to India, accompanying Prime Minister Mark Rutte and a trade delegation of 80 different businesses, H.E. Ms Sharon Dijksma, The Netherlands Minister for Agriculture, speaks to Aamir H Kaki on The Netherlands-India agricultural cooperation, Dutch technological expertise in agriculture, water management, agro processing, dairy farming and how The Netherlands can help India in food security and more. Excerpts:

Agriculture provides the basis for strengthening cooperation between India and The Netherlands. Do you agree?

As we wish to strengthen our relationship with India, we strive to contribute to the development of Indian agriculture. Indian government’s programme ‘Make in India’ aims to boost foreign investment. That’s great, because Dutch companies are keen to sign up. We want to ‘Make in India’. The Netherlands wants to help ‘Make in India’ succeed by offering knowledge and technology, and the products and services of Dutch companies.

Do you believe that The Netherlands can play a pivotal role in India when it comes to agricultural technology? And, if so, how can your ministry contribute in achieving that?

In The Netherlands, we have a tradition of the private sector, including farmers’ organisations, knowledge institutions and government working closely together. This stimulates innovation and results in new knowledge and technology. During my visit to India, we have presented several ways in which we offer to contribute to the development of Indian agricultural technology. For example, we will set up 10 Centers of Excellence, focussed on knowledge transfer: Dutch knowledge, adapted to conditions in India. In these Centers, Dutch experts will train Indian farmers in agricultural technology. The Centers are the result of cooperation between Dutch and Indian government and will provide up to 40,000 trained farmers per center every year.

The Netherlands has world-class expertise in water management, biotechnology, agriculture, agro processing, dairy farming, horticulture, and floriculture. How can India tap The Netherlands’ expertise in these sectors?

In addition to the Centers of Excellence, we have presented the Dutch Dairy Cluster during my visit. In this alliance, Dutch dairy companies will share their knowledge about the whole dairy chain and ways in which it can be made more efficient. We believe that we have something to offer for the dairy sector in India. We want to share our expertise on feed formulas, practical training, genetics, farm management, animal health, hygiene and processing. And we can offer smart logistics to get all those nutritious dairy products to reach consumers without loss of quality.

The Netherlands is a major investor in India. Why should companies from The Netherlands invest in agriculture in India? What makes agriculture a wise investment?

Under the current government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has launched a number of ambitious initiatives to realise its potential. India’s ambitions and challenges have drawn us here. I believe that Dutch businesses can make a valuable contribution to a better future for India. We have the knowledge, the technology, the experience, and the ability to work harmoniously with our Indian counterparts. The involvement of Dutch companies, not only contributes to the success of their business, but also contributes to the welfare of our two nations.

You are accompanied by a delegation of more than 80 Dutch companies and research institutes. What will be the major focus of this visit and which are the lucrative opportunities you see for Dutch companies in the Indian agriculture sector?

Food security and improving agricultural productivity are pillars of India’s future. The Netherlands is one of the world’s largest and most innovative food producers in the world. The part of this mission will focus on leveraging the power of IT to increase food production. We also excel at water management and environmental management. The Netherlands and India are already working together on improving inland waterways and I am confident we can help in cleaning the Ganga. We could also play a key role in Government of India’s ambitious programme of building the 100 smart cities. This requires an integrated approach to not just water and waste, but also to energy efficiency, mobility and urban planning.

In order to feed more than a billion people, food security is a major challenge for India. How can The Netherlands help India?

Indian agriculture sector has enormous potential. To feed the growing population, it needs to boost food production and reduce waste; India’s food security is a major area of focus. Most of the population growth in India is in cities. Lifting dairy production in India has been identified as one of the 10 ‘flagship ideas’ that could have global impact on food security. Getting dairy products to urban consumers is a challenge, as milk needs all kinds of processing before delivery. That’s where we believe we can make a difference. In general, India will benefit a lot from having better storage and transportation methods with which food can stay fresh for longer period.

In your opinion, where does India stand compared to developed countries with regard to agricultural technology and expertise?

The human capital in India is overwhelming. I’m sure we will see many forms of cooperation in the field of agriculture in the years to come. For example, when Indian ICT and Dutch food processing technology get together, we can enter a whole new era of innovation, together. The possibilities are endless.