Published On: Mon, Nov 26th, 2018

Dutch delegation leader: “Colombia interests us because we see healthy growth”

colombian_flagInterview with Hans de Boer, Dutch leader who heads the commercial mission of more than a hundred business owners who have just arrived in Colombia.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is very interested in Colombia. So much so that for the first time in the 189 years of relations between the two countries, a head of government, Premier Mark Rutte will arrive in Bogota within a historic political and commercial advance that will also bring three ministers, two of them from Aruba and Curaçao.

The mission, which began arriving yesterday and will be until November 30, in addition to the agenda related to peace processes and traditional cooperation, will have a novel component: the presence of 110 business owners, who want to explore businesses in agriculture and horticulture, in port logistics and water management and in health care, among others. The Netherlands will also be the guest of honor at the first BiciGo fair, which starts on Thursday in Bogota.

Hans de Boer is the head of the Confederation of Industry and Companies of the Netherlands and presides over the commercial mission. De Boer believes that the main contribution that the Dutch Kingdom can make is the transfer of knowledge: “I always tell my friends that when you go to buy a kilo of gold and a kilo of tomato produced in Holland, tomatoes will be more expensive, because of the high technology involved.”

Is there interest of Dutch companies to invest in developing Colombian agriculture at the level that you are doing in your own country?

“That is exactly our idea. The Netherlands is big in terms of agricultural exports but it is not a mass production. It has to do more with technology, with inputs, what we are going to export is knowledge. For us, production is better in a country like Colombia, exporting products from there.”

What is the model that the Netherlands proposes?

In Indonesia or in Vietnam we bring knowledge, and together we develop products and markets. For example, what we see in Ecuador or Kenya, in the flower industry, which also has a lot of technology. We grow flowers in these two countries and export them to the rest of the world because in our country the area is too small to produce that many. So what we do is go to more appropriate areas. We provide our knowledge and do the cultivation and production there and export from those countries. That is the model. In fact, we already import flowers from Colombia, mix them with other flowers and re-export them to other parts of the world.

What are the biggest problems that have clashed to strengthen the relationship with Colombia?

Currently the two countries are at a level of total trade around 1,500 million euros and import from Colombia about 200 or 300 million. We export to your country one billion. Colombia is for us a growing market. We see great potential in Colombia because it is in the early stages of healthy and good growth. We do not see obstacles or major problems, although there will always be something to solve.

For example, in recent days I saw that our potato growers have problems with some policies that their government has issued, but this is only a small obstacle. We can discuss it, there are no big obstacles. We see more a potential.

In Bogota we have Holland House, which is the Colombian-Dutch Chamber of Commerce, an organization that combines all the interests that we already have in Colombia and we work together with the government. That model has been so successful that it is trying to extend it to other countries.

In some regions, such as Valle del Cauca, there are export enterprises for avocados. Is there Dutch interest in this sector?

The horticulture sector will be part of the mission and we know that you are interested in promoting your avocado export sector. We will have some meetings to see how we can work together or cooperate. We know that there are some Dutch companies interested in working with Colombia in this sector.

On the other hand, roses are very good, their standards are very high and then some companies will go to Colombia to see how they can cooperate and learn from them in this field.

We know that the Netherlands has a program of advice and accompaniment to small businesses called PAM and also ventures in the orange economy. Is there any initiative in that regard in Colombia?

We can help with ventures, because we have our own model, if the Colombian government asks us to do so. We are working with companies in the Netherlands that work with Colombian companies to comply with quality standards up to the level required in Europe. Small companies in Colombia could also benefit.

Cartagena and other regions of the north are suffering from the elevation of water levels. How can Holland help, given its recognized experience in that sector?

What we want is to strengthen ties, start a dialogue and when there is a basis of trust and mutual recognition, we hope to reach specific businesses. That is the way we work.

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