'Vietnam benefits from Dutch knowledge and products'

After decades of impressive economic and agricultural growth, the focus in Vietnam shifts to food quality and more sustainable production methods. In addition to many export products, the Netherlands offers knowledge and know-how from which Vietnam can benefit, claims agricultural advisor Lan Nguyen (1979) from the Netherlands embassy in Hanoi. This article is part of a series on the agricultural advisors who play an important role in the Netherlands Agricultural Network (LAN) worldwide.

Lan Nguyen
Lan Nguyen

The reform policies launched in Vietnam in 1986 have brought profound changes to the country. The economic growth was massive, the population grew strongly - to 98.5 million people now - and Vietnam became more prosperous. Agricultural production increased. In addition to the millions of small-scale farms, modern large-scale agriculture and animal husbandry also developed. Nguyen: “The reformation is truly impressive. There are much less concerns about food security. When talking about food security, the focus is not only on food availability but also on food quality and nutrition. Agricultural production is therefore shifting from quantity, powered by the use of fertilizers and pesticides, to quality and added value products. More attention is paid to the negative environmental impact and to sustainable production practices.”

Vietnam is a priority country

Vietnam is an economic priority country for the Netherlands. Trade between the two countries is increasing and there is a lot of interest in Dutch agricultural knowledge, technology and innovations. In particular in dairy products, pork and the vegetable and flower chains. There has been a Strategic Partnership Arrangement (SPA) on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security between The Netherlands and Vietnam since 2014 and an SPA on the water management and climate change since 2010.

'The Netherlands have been Vietnam’s trusted and leading partner in joint movement towards the realization of a sustainable and climate resilient Mekong Delta'

Agricultural team at the embassy

The agricultural team in Vietnam consists of Willem Schoustra agricultural counsellor, Ms Nguyen Huong Lan, agricultural advisor in Hanoi, Ms Dang My An, agricultural advisor in Ho Chi Minh city, a management assistant, and a coordinator of the Mekong Delta region. Lan Nguyen did a bachelor in International Trade at the Hanoi Foreign Trade University. For her master’s degree International Business and Management at the Hanzeschool, she stayed in Groningen (NL) for a year.

How did you get involved in agriculture with your background in international trade?

“I was lucky that both of my parents studied abroad, in Bulgaria, in the seventies. My father studied food technology while my mother studied chemistry, and he later frequently travelled to countries all over the world for his job in the private sector. My family had a farm, growing rice and vegetables. Trade and agriculture came together in the family in which I was raised. I was triggered by my father’s stories about foreign countries and how the people there live. So, after my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to study abroad to open my mind. A few years after obtaining my master’s degree, I could coincidentally apply for the position of junior agriculture advisor in the agricultural team of the Dutch embassy. The combination of agriculture and international business suits me perfectly. There is a growing agricultural business relationship between The Netherlands and Vietnam. The Netherlands is a forerunner in the agricultural field and, in addition to many export products, offers knowledge and know-how from which Vietnam can benefit.”

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Visit LAN-team to orchid farm
Visit of agricultural team to an orchid farm

What is your role in the agricultural team?

“As agricultural advisor I have three pillars: keep the policy dialogue going between the Netherlands and Vietnam, designing and monitoring bilateral projects, and trade promotion. In the policy dialogue, we promote the Dutch agricultural sector as an innovative, smart partner with a focus on caring for nature. With the important properties of being open to dialogue and daring to try. Trade promotion is of course a very import task. We have a lot of activities for opening new markets, we advise and assist Dutch companies with matters such as plant and animal health rules, with trade registration in Vietnam, market entry rules and market information. The combination of ‘long term investment’ activities and quick interventions with results is fulfilling. That market access negotiation, may take years for results while in time support to Dutch businesses in solving their problems where possible makes me really happy.”

The endangered Mekong Delta is the key area for the agricultural production of Vietnam. What is the role of the Dutch agricultural sector here?

“The Netherlands and Vietnam have been working together for decades on the climate change effects in the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta has the size of the Netherlands and faces many threats: it is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, including rising sea levels, salinity, flooding during the wet season and water shortages during the dry season. Coping with these challenges is in the heart of the Vietnamese-Netherlands cooperation in the Mekong Delta. The Netherlands have been Vietnam’s trusted and leading partner in joint movement towards the realization of a sustainable and climate resilient Mekong Delta; both in the public and private sectors.”

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Visit LAN-team Mekong Delta
Visit of agricultural team to Mekong Delta

For instance, Royal Haskoning is involved. In what way?

“We also support Royal Haskoning DHV’s work with the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment to develop a master plan for the Mekong Delta 2021-2030. In 2019 the prime ministers of Vietnam and The Netherlands have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on further cooperation in the Mekong Delta by developing an Agricultural Transformation Program. This transformation will later provide business opportunities for the Netherlands in agriculture, water, circular economy and (agri)logistics.”

You just mentioned sustainability and climate resilience. What is the national policy on these subjects?

“Following the commitment of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in COP 26, in early 2022, a governmental decree has been issued providing regulation on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission. Accordingly, the ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam has been assigned by the government to work out a plan to reduce 129.8 million tons of CO2td (out of national target of 563.8 million tons CO2td) by 2030.

Vietnam is also in the process of developing the national strategy on climate change until 2050. The first draft of this national strategy is finalised within 5 months after Vietnam’s COP 26 commitment, which proves the strong governmental focus on this topic.”

'Agriculture in Vietnam is shifting from quantity to the quality and added values with an eye on environmental costs’

What was the influence of COVID-19 on your work?

“Vietnam was hit badly by COVID-19. There were strict measures, including lockdowns. I needed a travel permit to go to the embassy. We split up the entire ambassy team, and we worked alternately from home and at the office to reduce the possible impact of a COVID-infection. There were no live trade fairs, no missions. We had to switch to online events. Sometimes, we had to help Dutch companies that were not allowed to remain open. Or, for example, where the trucks were not allowed to leave the site to deliver products. The legislation was not always clear. In three cases with very big problems, we had to talk on a ministerial level to solve the problems. These are moments that you can really show your added value as an agricultural team.”

Does the conflict in Ukraine influence Vietnam?

LAN-Vietnam in a meeting
Willem Schoustra and Lan Nguyen in a meeting

“Unfortunately, there is no exception from that. We have an open economy and Russia is a strong trade partner for Vietnam. Due to the war, commodity and fuel prices are rapidly rising, there are logistic problems, and troubles with international payments. This also affects coffee, nut and fruit export. In addition to the economic impact, there is an emotional impact as well. Many Vietnamese people studied in Russia, and some in Ukraine. They have many contacts with people in both Russia and Ukraine. That makes the conflict even more confusing.”

You have a fulltime job and two children. Do you have any spare time?

“I spend all my spare time with my family, supporting my kids with their homework. In the weekends we have quality time together. Sometimes we go hiking or biking. My parents and in-laws live nearby and so does my brother. Family is very important. Living in the city, I just have a small balcony garden at the moment. But when the time comes for more spare time, I will start a small-scale farm with my sister-in-law. Our dream is to grow some vegetables, fruits, and have some livestock.”

Aquaculture scoping mission June 6-10 2022

The Netherlands Embassy is organizing this mission in collaboration with the joint Dutch Top sectors initiative (water, agro-food, horticulture and logistics).

You can register through the following email address: an.dangmy@minbuza.nl  (agricultural department of the consulate in Ho-Chi-Minh City).  The program will be organized by the Netherlands Embassy. The participant is responsible for travel, accommodation etc. The deadline for registration is 31 of May 2022.

In case you are interested joining the scoping mission or in case of further questions, please contact Jacqueline Barendse jhmbarendse@outlook.com or Miriam Pot miriam.pot@outlook.com (both working for the Mekong Delta Business Platform).

In case of further question regarding aquaculture developments in the Mekong Delta, kindly contact the agricultural team at the Netherlands Embassy in Hanoi HAN-LNV@minbuza.nl. We are happy to further assist you or welcoming you in Vietnam.

Dutch trade mission visits Vietnam in June

Trade mission on food and beverage to Vietnam: tentatively 27 June – 02 July 2022. The Netherlands embassy in Vietnam and the Dutch Business Association Vietnam have joined forces to introduce companies to the Vietnamese food industry, with the aim to actually establish long-term relationships by exploring, intensifying and concretizing business relations.

For information, please contact: Mr. Wilco Boer - +31646326023 / E.: wilco@exportpartner.com


Email: han-lnv@minbuza.nl
Phone: +84 4 3935 2900
Twitter: @AgroVietnam