Jack Vera succeeded Niek Schelling in August 2016 as agricultural council for South Africa and Angola at the Dutch embassy in Pretoria. Just a year before he moved to South Africa, he was part of the management team of the direction Agricultural and natural science at the ministry of Economics.
Appointment in South Africa
“South Africa is a very interesting country. For years, there has been a close bond between the Netherlands and South Africa. As agricultural council, I facilitate agricultural businesses that see potential in this country. Another main task is the improvement of the market access for Dutch products. There was a large agricultural conference in the first week of my stay. I have met many important stakeholders.”
“South Africa is quite self-sufficient as well being an exporter of many cultivation related products. The university agricultural education is of a high level. On the opposite side, there are many so-called "new growers", who are supported by the government in starting up cultivation companies. Due to rural reforms, a lot of fertile soil is being freed up. The main challenge is to support the newcomers with knowledge. Practical education is on a lower level. This could be greatly improved by the country. I am convinced that our green education in the Netherlands could help and give advice.”
Opportunities for Dutch companies
“The Dutch horticultural sector has had a foothold in South Africa for years. Regarding seeds, greenhouse technology, and irrigation, the Netherlands plays an important role and there are many opportunities in the near future.
The developments in agro logistics are very interesting. A Dutch business consortium is investigating how the Netherlands can contribute to the improvement of the infrastructure - eg cooled transport of fruits and vegetables to the big cities and the export harbours. The consortium has made a plan, together with local businesses and the government, to provide more cooled transport by railways instead of roads.
The Netherlands is the largest importer of fruit from South Africa and has an interest in products arriving quickly and in a good condition to the harbours of Capetown, Durban, and Port Elizabeth. Improved logistics is good for agricultural developments in this country, as well as for the Netherlands. It cuts both ways.”
“It is clear that South African agriculture often suffers from drought. Climate change really affects certain areas so there is every reason for climate-smart agriculture. I am talking about the efficient use of water and digital information systems for weather. Dutch companies are leaders in these areas.
Something very different is the foundation of cultivation cooperatives in areas where new producers are starting their business. Dutch agriculture is in fact the inventor of the cooperative phenomenon; it has more than 100 years of experience in this field. We could advise new cooperatives and support them.”
Market access Dutch apples and pears
“The major importers here want imported fruits in the so-called reverse season, the South African spring. I really hope that the borders open in December 2016. South Africa wants reciprocity during negotiations about market access. Bluntly said: give a little, take a little. This country asks for flexibility for exports to Europe. It is advisable to take this into account during the negotiations.”
Source: Agroberichten Buitenland