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Japan and The Netherlands have much to offer one another

Published: 04-04-2014

Most Japanese agriculture is small-scale and inefficient because of the country’s mountainous terrain. Despite these natural disadvantages, Japan believes it can improve and modernize its agro-food sector. It aims to restore the agricultural areas hit by the 2011 disaster and to reduce its dependence on food imports through increased self-sufficiency.

Japan grows enough rice to provide for its entire population, but it produces far too little of other food products and raw materials. With a 40% self-sufficiency rate, Japan is the number two net importer of foodstuffs in the world. At the same time, it is a highly developed nation that spends a relatively large part of its income on food. Japanese consumers like novel (functional) and organically-grown foods in particular.

Shared values and interests
“Because Japan’s population is well-educated and interested in high-quality food, there’s quite a demand for new technologies, among other things,” said Anne Mensink, International Relations Manager at Food Valley NL. “This creates many business opportunities for Dutch companies.” “Just think of all the technology and knowledge of horticulture and functional ingredients we have, and all those new industrial processing technologies,” Mensink said. “We’ve noticed that Japan is becoming more and more open to international cooperation. The Netherlands is one of the largest agro-food exporters in the world and Japan is one of the biggest importers. For that reason alone, Food Valley NL has many contacts with Japanese businesses and knowledge institutes. We regularly host delegations from Japan and introduce them to a range of Dutch companies and knowledge institutes.”

Mensink named several Japanese businesses that have joined the Food Valley NL network so they can find the right agro-food contacts in The Netherlands. “Kikkoman Foods Europe, Kaneka Corporation and Nippon Suisan R&D have been members for years, and recently Suntory Global Innovation Center and Asahi Group Holdings also became Food Valley Society members.” The two countries’ agro-food relations are not a one-way street, Mensink pointed out. “Japan has a lot to offer Dutch companies in terms of technology. Cooperation is to both countries’ benefit, all the more so because we share many values and interests, such as quality, health and safety. But we also face some of the same challenges in the future: ageing populations and the need to make the agro-food industry more sustainable.”

Interest in cooperation
In addition to this interest in new knowledge and technology, Japan has a strong incentive to encourage cooperation between various parties and links in the agro-food chain. Prime Minister Abe has indicated he wants to allocate more budget to stimulating economic growth. He believes new cooperative links must be forged to reinforce Japan’s export position. In 2013, Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari visited Food Valley NL to learn how the Dutch business community, knowledge institutions and government agencies cooperatively foster innovation. “The way all the stakeholders cooperate within Food Valley NL is unique”, Amari said. “There’s an accumulation of knowledge here that businesses and institutions optimally benefit from. In Japan, stakeholders are far more reluctant to share knowledge. I’m really impressed by what I’ve seen here.”

For more information, please contact Anne Mensink, anne.mensink@foodvalley.nl, +31 317-466510