Toespraak van staatssecretaris Dijksma bij Potato Europe Event

Speech van de staatssecretaris van Economische Zaken, Sharon Dijksma, bij het Potato Europe Event, Emmeloord, 11 september 2013.

(Engelstalig document)

Ladies and gentlemen,

If Van Gogh had lived today, he might have depicted Kenian or Ugandese potato eaters.

Because potatoes not only are the very basis of our menu. They have become the basis of an increasing amount of other peoples menus too. They are considered to be healthy and nutritious. They are world’s number one no grain food commodity. Growing in more than 100 countries. And varieties can grow under temperate, subtropical and tropical conditions.

So we gather in Emmeloord this morning, world potato capital. But that’s not where you’ll find that many potatoes. One can discover Dutch piepers in any part of the world. Piepers - that’s how potatoes are called in Dutch. They are among our most important export products. Dutch companies hold 60% of the world market. So, part of our market position – the Netherlands are second in export of agricultural products – leans on seed-potatoes.

Some weeks ago the Global Footprint Network stated that the world population uses more resources than our planet has to offer. It said that we can reach the end of 2013 only by demolishing forests, by fishing too much and by using more clean water.

But we know there are a lot of chances.

Chances include a constant search for effective answers to the question how to feed the world population as it grows from 7 to 9 billion people.

The answer involves us, together.

The answer incites us to leave behind the old ways of thinking. To reach the next level (today’s theme).

That’s how food security is high on the political agendas all over the world.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) emphasizes on the importance of the potato as food in developing nations. It actively promotes the development of potato-based systems in order to achieve these Goals. It has declared a ‘year of the potato’ a few years ago (2008).

And it is right in doing so.

Potatoes produce more nutritious food more quickly, on less land an in harsher climates than any other crop. Because they demand less water.

But these are just facts.

Today’s seminar is about the next level.

We can oversee our fields and look at the horizon. We are ploughing promising fields.

Because agricultural experts hold technical solutions. They can initiate higher global production, sustainably. This can be found in GPS agriculture or the use of plants for nitrogenous compound.

I was told there are participants of the meeting on high precision agriculture in the room. For those who don’t now about this programme: it has been running four years now. Farmers, machine constructors, engineers, service providers, suppliers and my ministry, we have cooperated and invested in it financially. The programme is about working sensitively, efficiently and timely on every tiny spot, every square metre per section, every moment of the day. Thus enabling farmers to control the cycle from seed to crop and reduce on the use of fertilizer and pesticides up to 30%. We now are refining these techniques in order to make it more easy to handle them.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We really are ploughing promising fields.

I had another promising event the other day, when I spoke to Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton too is a strong supporter of all climate smart agriculture initiatives. The Netherlands also are cooperating with the Clinton Foundation, in order to have our knowledge on firm ground in countries like Malawi and Tanzania.

In our agricultural approach research and agriculture are integrated. It has been the aim of many Dutch governments in a row to enforce it. As a result, we have strong cooperation between companies, scientists and the government. It is permitting us to maintain, for many years now, a high level of knowledge on resources, nature and health.

And we love to share new knowledge and practices with you. Through research projects as well as practical innovations, at home and abroad. That’s why we actively support sustainable potato sectors in developing countries.

I recently discussed co-operation possibilities with the Honourable Minister of Agriculture in Uganda, mr. Tress Bucyanayandi. This was in the month of April. Today, the Ugandese have their Potato Action Plan. And next week a Ugandese delegation will be visiting us to interact with public and private organisations.

The Dutch government supports agriculture in developing countries by assistance on the ground, by taking away obstacles to local sustainable developments, by stimulating partnerships in the private sector, with governments, NGO’s, research institutes.

It’s our aim to have all of our agricultural products innovative and sustainable. And to have them processed sustainably trough the food chain.

Having an innovative, sustainable production of potatoes means taking each potato from a healthy natural environment. Consumption must be based on good functioning ecosystems and fit in to local food systems. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the very essence of our future economy. Of a green, naturalised economy. A complete different notion on economics and welfare. It would be an answer to food security issues. And launch many more economical chances for all of us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Potatoes are good, healthy, nutritious food for every man, every woman, every child. And since potatoes are integral part of our global food system, it’s time for the next level.

It’s time to share.

To realise solutions together.

To take chances collectively.

Solutions for worldwide food security, based on new, sustainable and effective agricultural production systems.

Chances, that will include innovation, hard work and a lot of international dynamics.

The power is to the pieper.