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Luc Driessen, area sales manager Asia for Bejo:

“Hybrid shallots a solution for 200,000 Indonesian cultivators”

Shallots as the hot topic during a trade mission: it might sound odd, but during a recent visit to Indonesia, led by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, this allium crop was extensively discussed. “And rightly so,” said Luc Driessen, area sales manager, Asia, for Bejo. “A country such as Indonesia cultivates 120,000 hectares of shallots, and has 200,000 shallot cultivators. That area needs to increase in order to help the growth of the economy and the population. In a country such as the Netherlands hybrid strains are completely embedded, but there are still many countries with low percentages of hybrids. With our seed shallots, we can boost production and quality enormously.”

“In Asia, available ground is scarce. That is why it is necessary that cultivators have more output from a hectare. And that is especially the case for shallots in Indonesia. Demand for the product is such that there needs to be more local cultivation, but because the material is vegetatively propagated, as is traditional (from plant shallots) — and the border for innovative material is closed — people remain in that vicious circle. People want to grow, but with the current material they are faced with an enormous burden of disease,” Driessen continues.

“Fortunately, shallots are high on the agenda, and they were given the status of strategic crop by the Indonesian government, just as rice, potatoes and peppers. That is why the government is now involved, and why we are in conversation with ministers to allow us to import seed shallots. In any case, we have plenty of evidence that we have a suitable strain which offers a solution to expand the area, and to have local farmers grow a healthier and more profitable crop. After all, we are talking about the income of many farmers,” Driessen explains. “Furthermore, steps could be taken in more Asian markets. In countries such as Thailand and Vietnam large quantities are cultivated as well, and cultivators still need to make the transition to seed shallots.”

“We are facing an enormous challenge in order to reach those 200,000 Indonesian cultivators, and to convince them it could also be done differently, but that is the case we are now making. The Top Sector Horticulture did a lot of good work in this dossier, and the contribution of Prime Minister Rutte was also very valuable,” Driessen says. “In the end, the population number will soon reach 9.5 billion people, and one of the most important questions is how to feed all of them. The total onion consumption has increased by 45 per cent between 2001 and 2011. Those onions have to be produced somehow, and it is most interesting to organise that cultivation close to the consumer. That is why Bejo will hold a seminar about allium to boost local cultivation during the Horti Asia in Bangkok.”

As area sales manager, Asia, Driessen is responsible for the entire continent. “I visit all of the countries, except North Korea. We improve fifty different crops, and the majority of this is marketed in Asia. We have built a good market position for ourselves on the Asian market with traditional crops such as onions, shallots, carrots, cabbage, broccoli and beets.” He mentions China as an example of an Asian country that implemented professionalisation. “It is not a shallot country, but it is a country with an increasing percentage of high-quality onion cultivation. It is a market that went from being a low cost competitive market to an enormously professionalised market that shifted to hybrids in the past ten years. I have a lot of respect for that.”

For more information:
Luc Driessen
area business manager Asia
Tel. +31 (0)226 396 162
Fax +31 (0)226 393 504
[email protected]
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