Successful follow-up on Vietnam’s Conference “LET’S GET TO WORK”

On March 22-23, 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam and the Netherlands government organized the regional Conference on Food Security “LET’S GET TO WORK – building a food secure future”. As follow-up to Postharvest Network’s presence at that conference Nina Waldhauer and Françoise van den Broek visited Vietnam again from August 20 to 26.

The two representatives of the Postharvest Network had several meetings with MARD, IPSARD, VAAS, VieTrade, VNFU, VCA, World Bank, private sector organizations, universities and last but not least, the Netherlands Embassy in Hanoi. One evening the Postharvest Network moderated a seminar on “Dutch showcases: supply chain management in agribusiness” on behalf of Nuffic NESO in HCMC. After which a vivid discussion enrolled, showing once again the need for concrete action to reduce food losses, increase shelf life and food security together.

The Postharvest Network will take part in the preparations for the visit of Minister Cuong to the Netherlands later this year. The Postharvest Network will also start preparing a next trip to Vietnam. During this trip, the ties to the aforementioned stakeholders will be strengthened further and several workshops will be organized both in Hanoi as well as in HCMC. The aim is to develop a roadmap for long-term policy development as well as concrete down to earth actions to reduce postharvest losses.

Would you like to be part of this process? Please don’t hesitate and contact us!

Mobile research facility enables quality control anywhere and at all times

With the “Cool – Research on the move” concept, research institutes and companies can now carry out independent research into the quality of local perishables wherever they are in the world. The result: less food waste, greater export opportunities and more jobs. This unique concept is a partnership between Wageningen Food & Biobased Research and Fotein. It combines knowledge and techniques in the field of postharvest technology into a single mobile research facility.

On the outside, it looks like a normal reefer container. But on the inside it is an ultramodern research facility with climate chambers, measuring devices and control equipment. This enables a fast, reliable evaluation of the starting quality of fruit and vegetables, it ensures that different storage conditions are arranged for different products and monitors their quality decay.

From mango and avocado to aubergine, asparagus and lychees: the production of fresh fruits and vegetables in emerging countries like China, India, Kenya, Mexico and Vietnam has multiplied in recent decades. “This increases demand for the kind of knowledge and technology required to safeguard the quality and shelf life of fresh products,” says Peter Ravensbergen, business developer at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. “The mobile research facility will enable companies and governments to make informed decisions about the storage, transportation and sale of fresh products while maintaining the highest quality. This will in turn reduce food losses and strengthen companies’ international market position. The upshot in the long term will be additional economic activity and employment in the relevant regions.”

Please visit the website or download the press release (PDF) to read more about “Cool – Research on the Move” and for the contact details of the experts.

Reduction of postharvest losses and start-ups in Africa

On June 7, 2017, foodFIRST organized a Vijverbergsession[1] on agro-incubators in The Hague. Peter Ravensbergen was invited to perform a pitch on behalf of the Postharvest Network, presenting the lessons learned of the research “Do’s and Don’ts of Incubators”. . The study, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and performed by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, mainly focused on agro-innovations.

In the research, 18 entrepreneurs active on the African continent, have been interviewed about their product and the lessons learned. They all have a different sector background: horticulture, arable production, fisheries, husbandry, focusing on improved production techniques or on technical innovations for better quality in the product chain.

The seven most important lessons learned, which also seem to be success factors for the incubators, are:

  1. Work with a proven concept. Focus on tested innovations. This means: the concept, its product or service, should already have a proven result in practice. Keep it simple and start small.
  2. Marketing is necessary for the adoption of the innovative concept. Adoption is regarded as one of the biggest challenges in the acceptance of innovations. The question is how fast and why local businesses will change to the new innovation.
  3. Integral and Chain approach. Working together with other entrepreneurs in the supply chain is preferred. If possible, do not interfere nor work together with local governments: only concerning the legal aspects.
  4. Demonstration of the concept locally. It is important to show the concept to local entrepreneurs: people want to see it work. The demo has to be simple and pragmatic, understandable for local entrepreneurs and preferably adapted to the local village circumstances by entrepreneurs with a pioneer mentality.
  5. Access to the concept for local entrepreneurs. If possible bring the concept (geographically) close to your target group, like entrepreneurs. For instance with mobile units. A local network is crucial.
  6. Access to finance. Money to invest is needed and access to finance is crucial. Check the local conditions for local entrepreneurs to get access to finance. Sometimes local banks demand huge interest rates; requests for collateral are not fair.
  7. Accompaniment/support. To use the concept and to maintain it a good, after sales service and mentorship for entrepreneurs is necessary. Training of the people you work with is crucial. Train them on business plans, budgeting and planning.

More information about the agro incubator session can be found through this link.

The full text of the pitch is available here (PDF).

[1]Vijverbegsessions are closed meetings where academics, politicians and experts from the government, civil society and business discuss global food issues; goal is to formulate conclusions relevant for policy makers.

Image source: Shutterstock “Packing of red grapes in Peru”

Communique Regional Conference Vietnam on Food Security

The regional Conference on Food Security “LET’S GET TO WORK – building a food secure future”, that was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam and the Netherlands government on March 22-23, 2017 has been a success. As an outcome of the Conference a Chair’s Communique was adopted.

One of the main themes the conference focused on was “Reducing Food Losses”, which is connected with SDG12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. In the Communique, the following is stated on this theme:

“Currently around one third of the food produced is being lost or wasted. Reducing food loss and waste (FLW) can be a “triple win” opportunity: it increases income for farmers, companies, and saves money for households; wasting less means helping feed more; alleviates pressure on climate, water, land other resources.

Key action areas identified:

  • Being aware of the food losses caused by different actors in the value chain is the starting point for improvements.
  • Creating ownership of the losses is a challenge to address the issue.
  • Technology and knowledge transfer, together with ICT solutions and entrepreneur skill development are important to the development of food loss/waste reduction.
  • Creating and forecasting demand helps suppliers towards efficient supply along the food chain.
  • Joining a collective or cooperative initiative and creating scale makes investments in the food value chain more attractive for farmers in order to make profit.
  • Coordination between actors in the supply chain is key to reduce food loss along the food value chain. The region has to look at how to connect the players in the supply chain.
  • To make the food value chain work from the producer through the wholesale market to the end market, every link in the chain has to be in place and work in synchronization.
  • The region needs a food secure alliance to make food production more efficient and the use of land and resources less demanding for our climate.”

Please download here the full text of the Chair’s Communique (PDF).

The Postharvest Network hopes this Communique will encourage others to take the implementation of the SDG’s forward. In case you see opportunities on reducing postharvest losses and you are looking for cooperation, please do not hesitate to contact us.

For a more detailed report of the regional Conference, please read the news article.

Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyễn Xuân Phúc meets Postharvest Network

On Monday July 10, 2017, Prime Minister Phuc met Dirk ‘t Hooft and Nina Waldhauer of the Postharvest Network. They were given the opportunity to pitch the ongoing cooperation on solving the issues of postharvest management in Vietnam. The meeting was part of a three-day program of the Vietnamese government delegation in the Netherlands. The Prime Minister was accompanied by several ministers and more than 100 companies.

Vietnam has set itself the target to develop its domestic and foreign markets aiming to earn $33 billion in agro exports. To realize this ambition, it is key to ensure that products keep their high value and quality throughout the entire supply chain in order to satisfy the customer. The Postharvest Network supports Vietnam in developing its agrologistics and postharvest management through knowledge sharing and implementation of technical as well as organizational innovations. A key aspect is the set-up of a local network led by a Vietnamese organization to be our local counterpart and direct outreach to Vietnamese stakeholders.
This combination offers the unique opportunity to improve food quality and security as well as nutritional value, while at the same time reducing post-harvest losses and introducing efficient climate smart solutions. Both for the domestic as well as for the export market.

The Prime Minister responded to this pitch by saying that reducing the current postharvest losses of approximately 30% deserves the highest attention. Prime Minister Phuc mentioned to his Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Hoang Van Thang to take further action. During his visit to the Netherlands, Prime Minister Phuc also indicated that in Vietnam many opportunities exist in the areas of water, climate, agriculture, food security, urban development, energy and logistics.

Vietnam-Netherlands Joint Statement issued in the Framework of the working visit:

”[…] Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Prime Minister Mark Rutte highly valued the practical cooperation within the framework of the Strategic Partnership Arrangement on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. Vietnam and the Netherlands will exchange views on improving value chains in agriculture, including in safe meat production chains and creating favorable conditions for innovative sustainable agriculture. Vietnam welcomes the experience and cooperation of the Netherlands in this field. Together with the World Bank Group, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Food Safety Management in Vietnam involving Dutch support for Vietnam in terms of professional knowledge, technology and experience. Vietnam appreciates the technical support of the Netherlands in developing Vietnam’s National Food Branding strategy in recent years. Vietnam cordially invited the Netherlands to participate in the Vietnam FoodExpo 2018 as the Country of Honour. […] The leaders pledged to further strengthen cooperation in training experts and academic exchange among each other’s institutions.” (Source:

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc hoped Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) of the Netherlands will step up cooperation with its peers from Vietnam in agriculture, environment and water management. (Source:

It is expected that a delegation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) will visit the Netherlands in October 2017.

In 2018 Vietnam and the Netherlands will celebrate the 45th anniversary of their diplomatic relations and agreed that the respective sides will coordinate where appropriate in marking this special year.


WFBR to advise Colombia on logistics and food loss

As written by the Oxford Business group, and thought by many, Colombia’s agriculture sector will be the first to see the benefits of the signing of a historic peace agreement between the government and FARC[1] .

The recovery of a vast agricultural territory and the development of Colombia’s agrofood industry promise to become the motor for a rapid exponential growth in the country’s sector. As a consequence, Colombia will be able to position itself as one of the biggest global food suppliers in the years to come.

The Netherlands already is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural and food products. During the last decades, the country has been acquiring innovative agrofood knowledge and technology to boost its own agriculture sector. Through many ways, Dutch companies and institutions have also shared this knowledge and technology in order to help other countries develop their agrofood sector.

In this context, Monica Cabildo, Business Developer for Wageningen Food & Biobased Research (WFBR), visited Colombia and had several meetings with different representatives from the public and the private agrofood sectors in the country. Monica was also invited to participate in the Colombian Dutch Dialogue Logistics Conference (CDD) on April 5 and 6, 2017.  This dialogue between Colombian and Dutch experts aimed to promote the exchange of knowledge and experience between companies, research institutions and governments from both countries. The event was organized by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, Rijkswaterstaat (executive agency of the Ministry), RVO (Netherlands Enterprise Agency), and the National Association of Entrepreneurs in Colombia. Objective of the event was to strengthen the cooperation between both countries and to create bilateral benefits and opportunities in the field of logistics.

During the Conference, Monica Cabildo gave a presentation on “Metropolitan Food Clusters and Smart Agrologistics” (see top image), sharing the importance of producing well, and at the same time making sure that products reach the consumers in an efficient way and with the least possible food loss. It is true that Colombia has a full potential for the development of a broad range of high value products, but unleashing this potential would create the need for a parallel logistics development. The current backward state of logistics in the country might be the most powerful threat to the realization of its agricultural potential. To help Colombia face this challenge, WFBR is identifying synergies in which Colombian stakeholders could benefit from a collaboration with the institution.

[1]Oxford Business Group, The Report: Colombia 2017.

Vietnam – Regional Conference on Food Security, Let’s get to work

The regional conference “LET’S GET TO WORK – Building a food secure future” held on March 22-23, 2017 in Hanoi, Vietnam focused on Sustainable Development Goal 2: aiming to reduce food waste and food losses to implement new solutions for the relevant SDGs. The Conference brought together a broad range of government ministers and other high-level delegates from government and experts of international organizations, NGOs, knowledge institutes and the private sector. Welcoming speeches were addressed by the Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr. Le Quoc Doanh and the Vice-Minister of Agriculture of the Netherlands, Mrs. Marjolijn Sonnema.

Outcome: 55 Deals

The Conference was built around a two-day experts’ segment and a high-level round table discussion providing specific fields for further action based on the current challenges and constraints, as well as good practices. The Conference also set a first step of action with a set of concrete Food Security Deals. In total 55 Deals were closed. These Deals are concrete, cross-sectoral deals made by different configurations of stakeholders which committed themselves to action in new solutions to contribute to achieving SDG2.

Four themes

SDG2 doesn’t stand independently, but is interconnected with all other SDGs. Therefore, the Conference focused on the following four themes:

  • Climate Smart Agriculture; SDG13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts;
  • Reducing Food Losses; SDG12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns;
  • Food Safety; SDG2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture;
  • Sustainable Aquaculture; SDG14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The Conference has put forward different partnerships with many Food Security Deals, of which seven concrete and fully completed after the first day. One of the is concerned with the establishment of a Regional Post Harvest Network in Vietnam. Not only serving Vietnam, but also the demands from companies and governments within the Asian region.

Eelke Westra, (Wageningen University & Research) moderated a Working Session on Food Losses on day 1 of the Conference. During this session regional challenges and constraints, awareness raising and networking and a case on wholesale markets in Myanmar were discussed. Also, several Deals on the topic of reducing food losses were pitched and participants found.

On Day 2 Eelke Westra took part in the High-Level Round Table meeting, chaired by the Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr. Le Quoc Doanh and Mr. Michiel van Erkel, Director International Agribusiness at the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Françoise van den Broek, Postharvest Network, delivered a key note speech at the seminar on Post Harvest Losses. This seminar was also attended by several Dutch Agricultural Councilors active in the region and the Dutch agro mission to Vietnam led by Mrs. Marjolijn Sonnema. The set-up of a Regional Post-Harvest Network was pitched and received additional participants. Also, two pilot projects were pitched and received funding: ‘Potato storage for realizing a longer period of domestic potato availability’ and ‘Improving chain quality of dragon fruit’.

Some of the key action areas were defined with respect to food losses:

  • Being aware and creating ownership of food losses caused by different actors in the value chain is the starting point for improvements;
  • Technology and knowledge transfer, together with ICT solutions and entrepreneurial skill development are important to the reduction of food losses and waste;
  • Creating and forecasting demand helps suppliers towards efficient supply along the food chain;
  • Joining a collective or cooperative initiative and creating scale makes investments in the food value chain more attractive for farmers to make profit;
  • The region needs a food secure alliance to make food production more efficient and the use of land and resources less demanding for our climate.

The Conference was closed by a Plenary Ceremony, presenting the Deals and the Regional Steps forward.

The way forward

The outcomes of the Conference show concrete key actions, good practices for follow-up and a set of concrete Food Security Deals that facilitate regional processes. As a next step the outcomes of this Conference facilitate the continued dialogue on Food Security in the Asian Region, by bringing this into the High-Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture in Response to Climate Change, in Can Tho, Vietnam, 21-25 August 2017.

If you would like to hear more about the Deals on Food Losses, the two pilot projects or, if you want to actively participate in the Regional Post Harvest Network, please do not hesitate to contact us! The coming months we will work out a detailed plan for the Network and we will look for local representation of the Network in Vietnam, as this is crucial for its success.

All presentations of the conference can be found here.

Can technology help to make fresh food available and affordable?

By Herbert Smorenburg, Senior Manager GAIN

Poor dietary diversity in developing countries can be a key contributor because it increases the likelihood that people’s nutrient intake is insufficient. Making fresh food more safe, affordable and available provides an opportunity to increase dietary diversity and reduce malnutrition.

The main drivers of dietary diversity are availability and affordability of micronutrient- rich foods such as horticultural crops, animal-sourced foods, pulses, and nutritious grains. Availability and affordability of fresh fruits and vegetables in particular, due to their seasonal production and perishable nature, present one of the greatest challenges. Without suitable technologies, such as pickling, fermenting, drying, cooling and freezing to conserve, store and process nutritious foods, the cost of such foods, and therefore the cost of better, diverse and nutritious diets increases drastically.

With urbanization and globalization, food supply chains have generally become longer. In high income countries modern food processing, including cold-chain- and packaging technologies, have contributed to the elimination of most of the losses that occur during transport and storage.  In high income countries, the main losses are at the household level.

By contrast, in middle- and low income countries these modern technologies are not yet widely used, and, consequently, perishable foods are wasted before they even reach consumers. To illustrate, a recent study [Miller et al., Lancet, 2016] compared costs of vegetables and fruits across countries with different levels of income (see Table 1).

Table 1 – Absolute and relative costs of fruits and vegetables against income

High-Income countries Upper-Middle-Income countries Lower-Middle-Income countries Low-Income countries
Mean absolute cost (adjusted by purchasing price parity) of one portion (international dollars)
Vegetables $ 0.24 $ 0.19 $ 0.13 $ 0.11
Fruits $ 0.25 $ 0.26 $ 0.22 $ 0.33
Cost of recommended portion of fruits and vegetables as % of household income
2 portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables 2% 16% 18% 52%

Table 1 shows that the absolute costs of fruits are quite similar across the groups of countries, and are even higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries. This means that a healthy portion of fruit and vegetables becomes totally unaffordable to low income individuals and families in the developing world.

Inspired by these insights, a consortium of the Postharvest Network, AgriProFocus, BoPInc and GAIN started a feasibility study to understand food losses in mango, shallots and fish supply chains in Indonesia. We asked experts about the postharvest losses, why these were happening and what could be done to reduce these. Their views confirmed our hypotheses that the losses are significant and are caused by lack of using appropriate technologies to harvest, transport and store the crops. So it seems that shallots lose up to 40% of their weight as they dry out during storage; 10-15% of mangoes are said to get lost during each step of plucking, collecting, crating, transporting and storage; and a large portion of fish deteriorates in quality (leading to economic loss and serious food safety hazards) due to lack of sufficient cooling and freezing capacity on ships and in the fishing ports.

Last month these findings were discussed with government and private sector representatives in the shallot, mango and fish supply chains during a workshop in Jakarta, leading to an overall interest to form a Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition in Indonesia (PLAN).  During its first phase PLAN and its partners in Indonesia are mapping where loss and waste is taking place along the supply chains of nutritious foods, and focusing on technologies, policy and financial innovations that could support business to reduce the loss of and waste of these critical foods for human health and nutrition.

Agrologistics opportunities in Nigeria and Benin

In November 2015, Buck Consultants International presented a research report on agrologistics in Benin and Nigeria. This research was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The study concluded that due to a lack of efficient agro-logistics, postharvest losses are high. As a result, RVO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wished to follow up on this study by exploring opportunities for the Dutch private sector in agro-logistics in Benin and Nigeria. In cooperation with the Netherlands-African Business Council (NABC), the Postharvest Network was commissioned to organize a workshop in the Netherlands for Dutch companies with an interest in agro-logistics in Benin and/or Nigeria. The objective of this workshop was to develop project ideas to improve agro-logistics practices in Benin and Nigeria with the focus on food value chains, using Dutch agro-logistics expertise and technology.

This workshop took place on March 06, 2017 in the New World Campus in The Hague. The event was well attended by representatives of the private sector, the government, knowledge institutions and civil society. The beginning of the workshop focused on setting the scene by presenting further information on both countries by Obina Onowu, Embassy of Nigeria in the Netherlands, and Robbert Blij, Consulate of Benin in the Netherlands. Following, Errol van Groenewoud, Omnivent, and Bob Steetskamp, NAFTC, gave examples of their work and experience in Nigeria and Benin. Finally, Gerard Vos, Buck Consultants International, presented the key findings of the 2015 study.

The core of the workshop were four working groups around capacity building, cold chain development, added value in the agro-logistics chain and investment opportunities. All group developed ideas for opportunities and initiatives for Dutch stakeholders. These ideas form a basis to be further developed in the near future.

The day was close with an informal get-together and networking opportunities.

Please download the report with a summary of the workshop results (PDF).


India Pilot Study shows how cold chain can reduce food loss

The huge potential of India’s perishables export market has been highlighted by a new kinnow study showing a 76% reduction in food wastage when using pre-cooling and refrigerated transport equipment.

The pilot study, funded by Carrier, examined the extent to which the cold chain can help increase the quality, reach and profitability of kinnow, a citrus fruit rich in micronutrients and common to the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, by enabling sales out-of-season and in distant markets. This is an area of critical importance to India, which is the world’s second largest producer of fruits and vegetables but accounts for just 1.5 percent of global produce exports due to losses of up to 20-50 percent of total production.

Results of the pilot study on kinnow, commissioned by Carrier, show that investment in the cold chain – specifically pre-cooling and transport refrigeration equipment – can reduce food loss by 76 percent and carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2E) by 16 percent.

Please follow this link to read Carrier’s article about the pilot study.

Please follow this link to download the pilot report “Cold Chain Development for Fruits & Vegetables in India – Kinnow Cold Chain Study”.