Jan-Kees Goet, Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands, told Kazinform correspondent about his first upcoming visit to Kazakhstan, what the future holds for Kazakh-Dutch bilateral relations and agricultural cooperation and how Kazakhstan can contribute to food security in Central Asia and beyond.
Mr. Goet, could you elaborate on the goals and expectations of your first-ever visit to Kazakhstan?
I am eagerly anticipating my first visit to Kazakhstan. In 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality of the Netherlands made a significant decision to establish an agricultural office within the Embassy of the Netherlands to Central Asia, located in Astana. This decision underscores our commitment to fostering robust and collaborative ties between the Netherlands and Kazakhstan in the crucial agricultural sector.
This year, the Netherlands proudly is Partner Country at the Agroworld Exhibition in Almaty. This provides us with a significant platform to showcase our products and cutting-edge technologies, reaffirm our dedication to knowledge exchange and innovation, strengthen government-to-government dialogue, and support business-to-business cooperation between Kazakhstan and the Netherlands.
During my visit, I will be meeting with my counterpart, Vice-Minister of Agriculture Azat Sultanov, to discuss the future of our cooperation. Together with the Embassy of the Netherlands, I will open the Netherlands Joint Pavilion at Agroworld.
About 30 Netherlands companies participate in the exhibition this year. Furthermore, both Netherlands and Kazakh private sectors will have the opportunity to convene at seminars and workshops held at the Agroworld platform to present their technologies and establish new agreements.
Over the past three decades Kazakhstan and the Netherlands have enjoyed an exception partnership. The Netherlands is one of the five largest trade partners of Kazakhstan. In your opinion, what are the prospects of Kazakhstan and the Netherlands cooperation, especially in agricultural sector, moving forward?
The Netherlands is among the top 10 trading partners of Kazakhstan. The relationship and collaboration between Kazakhstan and the Netherlands are developing dynamically, both at the business and government levels.
In agriculture, our collaboration has shown stable mutual interest in greenhouse technologies, young plants and seedlings, plant protection products (including biological protection), poultry farming technologies, and technologies for dairy product farms.
Kazakhstan's ambition to modernize its agricultural sector, increase agricultural exports to neighboring countries, and align with President Tokayev's Address to the National priorities for higher-value product manufacturing and export expansion creates a favorable context for collaboration with the Netherlands. The Netherlands brings valuable expertise in greenhouse technologies, sustainable agriculture, and advanced agri-tech, positioning it as an effective partner in helping Kazakhstan achieve its agricultural goals. We could make a difference in potato processing. Our collaboration aligns well with Kazakhstan's goals, making it an exciting prospect for the future.
The Netherlands' direct investment into Kazakhstan’s economy and agriculture has exceeded $100 billion and the figure is growing every year. What are some of the most promising Netherlands-Kazakh projects in agricultural sector and how can Kazakhstan benefit from them?
The Netherlands is the largest investor in Kazakhstan's economy, with a significant portion of this investment still directed towards the hydrocarbons sector. However, Kazakhstan is actively pursuing economic diversification, with a particular focus on enhancing agricultural production and value addition. Collaboration with the Netherlands plays a pivotal role in this diversification effort.
The Netherlands modern technologies in horticulture, poultry, dairy, and fruit growing hold the potential to significantly improve the productivity, sustainability, and competitiveness of agricultural products. These technologies provide practical solutions to address diverse agricultural challenges while simultaneously fostering economic growth and bolstering food security. Dutch knowledge can also help to create a favorable enabling environment for agricultural development, like setting up animal health monitoring, or plant health inspection.
Moreover, the Netherlands companies offer comprehensive training programs for farmers, producers, agronomists, and zootechnicians, which are integral to these projects.
For instance, a notable investment project in agriculture is the 10-hectare high-tech greenhouse complex in Aqtobe. This greenhouse not only employs over 170 local workers but also yields 7800 tons of fresh vegetables per year, meeting local market demands and facilitating exports to neighboring countries. In Almaty, Dutch fruit companies have set up a orchard to demonstrate new varieties and growing techniques.
We hope to see more of such projects in Kazakhstan's agricultural sector in the future. The presence of successful enterprises enhances the country's attractiveness for foreign investments, contributing to its economic development and diversification efforts.
Water scarcity is becoming a rising problem in Kazakhstan with the country already beginning to experience water resources shortages. Henk Nieboer, director of the Netherlands Water Partnership and head of the Netherlands-Kazakhstan Business Association, stressed the importance of international cooperation in that respect and mentioned that green agriculture as one of the solutions to the pressing problem at the Astana International Forum (AIF) earlier this year. What do you think can help Kazakhstan tackle the problem of water scarcity?
Modern technology is one of the factors in the complex issue of addressing global pure water shortage. For instance, modern Netherlands’ high-tech greenhouses can save up to 70% of water compared to traditional irrigation methods. Potato is a staple crop that requires a less water than for example cotton or wheat.
In the Netherlands, water use is regulated by both EU legislation and national directives, focusing on issues such as water intake and water quality. The Plan for Agricultural Water Management (DAW) fosters cooperation among Dutch governmental organizations, Waterboards, and the Netherlands Federation of Agriculture and Horticulture. The objectives of this initiative are to reduce ground- and surface water pollution caused by agricultural activities, enhance the availability of freshwater for agricultural purposes, and improve agricultural production rates.
So addressing water scarcity and water quality requires a multifaceted approach that integrates water management, conservation, diversification, education, international collaboration, and regulatory measures. A holistic strategy that considers both short-term and long-term solutions is crucial for effectively addressing this pressing issue.
Amid the challenging geopolitical situation and disruptions in the global supply chains, Kazakhstan stands ready to play a significant role in ensuring food security in the Central Asian region and beyond. What are the problems and challenges Kazakhstan might face in that respect?
The Netherlands plays an active role in addressing global food security challenges, engaging in international forums like the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP). Our focus is on advocating for policies and actions that effectively tackle these pressing global food security issues.
Our experience has shown that the cornerstone of food security lies in the responsible utilization of natural resources and the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices. We also emphasize the importance of recognizing the significant impact of climate change on food security. Therefore, we advocate for climate-smart agricultural practices that enhance resilience and adaptability in the face of changing environmental conditions. Using the latest varieties of climate-resilient potatoes and horticultural crops is essential.
Kazakhstan holds great potential to contribute significantly to food security, not only within the Central Asian region but on a broader scale. In the field of horticulture, Kazakhstan's diverse climate zones provide a favorable environment for cultivating a wide range of crops, from wheat in the northern regions to various fruits and vegetables in the south.
Moreover, Kazakhstan's extensive land and abundant food resources position the country as a promising contender in the production of dairy and meat products in the region, and beyond.
With its enormous potential in terms of land and conditions to produce crops with higher value and quality Kazakhstan is in the process of becoming a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). How the Netherlands can help Kazakhstan join UPOV?
Kazakhstan's journey towards UPOV membership aligns with its aim to foster innovation in agriculture, stimulate breeding, and safeguard intellectual property rights for new plant varieties. By joining UPOV, Kazakhstan will create a conducive environment for both local and international stakeholders in the agricultural sector, promoting collaboration and trade relationships.
The Netherlands is proud to be a part of these developments. It has for years already supported Kazakhstan in its pursuit of UPOV membership. This support encompasses technical training seminars on UPOV principles and implementation, which benefit both public and private sectors, including Kazakh farmers and breeders. This collaboration is aimed at establishing a transparent and robust inspection and certification system for seed potatoes and fruit crops in Kazakhstan. Through knowledge sharing and expertise transfer, Netherlands involvement enriches Kazakhstan's journey toward UPOV membership, fostering innovation and safeguarding intellectual property. We look forward to the final step, the formal membership. Don’t underestimate the importance of it.
Thank you for the interview!