Knapen: growth market for sustainable food in Vietnam

‘The demand for sustainable and safe food is growing in Vietnam and the spending power for such products has increased. This creates opportunities for Vietnamese farmers and Dutch entrepreneurs, who are internationally renowned for their expertise in sustainable agricultural methods,’ development cooperation minister Ben Knapen said on Tuesday after visiting a sustainable vegetable producer near the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

High-quality vegetables

Vietnamese consumers are concerned about pesticides, which are commonly found on imported vegetables. The minister visited a sustainable vegetable set up with the help of development funding by specialists from the Dutch food chain company Fresh Studio. He talked to women who have been trained and helped to cultivate 18 types of high-quality vegetables without excessive use of pesticides. The women produce vegetables like amaranth, choy sum, cucumber, aubergine, kang kong, kohlrabi and spinach on their smallholdings for the Vietnamese market.

Mr Knapen also visited the storage and distribution centre of the wholesaler Metro Cash & Carry, the Vietnamese equivalent of the Dutch Makro.

New food chain

The vegetable chain is now independent. But Fresh Studio currently has plans, together with PepsiCon and (on the Dutch side) HZPC, Wageningen University and Agrico, to set up a new sustainable food chain, for potatoes. Mr Knapen has asked the company to elaborate these plans and send them to NL Agency for a final assessment.

Transition

The minister is paying a working visit to Vietnam to witness the transition from aid to trade and investment. Vietnam has an economic growth rate of around 5% and is one of the three developing countries where the Netherlands is deploying the knowledge and experience accumulated through development cooperation for economic diplomacy.

Deputy foreign minister

Earlier in the day Mr Knapen visited the deputy foreign minister, Bui Thanh Son. Topics of discussion included bilateral ties, cooperation and dialogue between the European Union and Vietnam in various fields, including human rights. The World Bank's annual meeting was also discussed.

On Wednesday Mr Knapen will travel to Ho Chi Minh City to learn about the flooding and water management problems there.