Over the bridge built by Kardius
When in 1998 Kardius Kruisberg, a young Dutch agronomist, came to Grodno region as a coordinator of the international project “Garden strawberry,” he didn’t suspect that this temporary job would become his permanent business
Moreover, according to him, this job turned into an adventure. When he became the director of “BelAgriPlants” Company that was founded by Dutch investors and grow strawberry and its seedlings in Mosty district, in the village with a funny name Mosty Levye, he learnt Russian, married a Belarusian girl. He brings up a daughter; he is happy, successful and, by all appearances, he is not going to return to his Motherland. In short, he built his own bridge connecting our countries.
When I got acquainted with this open and sociable man at the agrarian theoretical and practical forum “Netherlands-Belarus” where more than twenty Dutch companies and even more Belarusian households were represented, I asked him about the project he offered there. As it turned out, unlike many of his fellow citizens engaged in innovations and investments into agriculture he didn’t bring a new project. He was invited to the forum as a “study guide,” as a live illustration of the fact that business cooperation with Belarusians can be very successful. It is worthwhile to say that the strawberry business presentation was convincing.
“Does anything interfere with your work here?” Kardius was asked.
“Only weather,” the Dutchman answered diplomatically.
His enterprise with 400 hectares of land, its own equipment, real estate, a production base, fifty permanent workers and 250 seasonal workers at its disposal has a turnover up to 2–3 billion Belarusian rubles. “BelAgriPlants” supplies seedlings mainly to Western Europe and Russia. The seedlings are called frigo, these are plants with cut leaves and saplings, which can be stored cold for more than a year. This allows elongating planting terms from April to June. Some products are supplied to Belarusian market. High quality Dutch strawberry, which is in buoyant demand, is supplied to the local trading network.
The Dutchmen don’t keep the technology a secret and willingly share their experience with Belarusian agronomists at numerous seminars and on a Russian-language Internet-site. They supply necessary equipment for strawberry cultivation to the interested persons. The last forum was not an exception. The company’s director Kardius Kruisberg was in extreme demand of Belarusian specialists.
However, Belarusian agrarians grabbed up all the Dutchmen into “membership clubs” for the time free for intercourses. For example, offers of “Agrico CV” farmers cooperative representatives seemed quite attractive. The cooperative sells good-yielding seed and table potato. Unfortunately, it is badly represented in Belarus in contrast to the neighboring countries of our region.
“PUM” Company, which specializes in the non-commercial expertise of projects and operates in 70 states, also wants to take a more significant part in our country. The experts-volunteers from among the heads and specialists of leading Dutch companies are ready to share their experience free of charge in the sphere of investments attraction, logistics, production infrastructure creating, realization of products, environment protection. As experience has shown, new coming farmers especially need such assistance including trips to Holland in order to study the experience in situ. Belarusian farmers should not keep out of it.
“Basfood BV” Company caters for farmers, the program of which named “Our view of the fields” allows any farmer to obtain the latest satellite update on the condition of his seeds and forecasts of the harvest at a reasonable price.
Like “BelAgriPlants” some companies settled in Belarus in the 90’s. Among them there is such a company as “Nehem International BV” that established the first in our country inter-agrarian cooperative organization “Agrarian vegetables” with five farmers in the lead. In fact, this is a Dutch concept of an inter-agrarian cooperation when agrarians being independent owners of their land unite only in order to simplify sale of cultivated production. After this idea had been given trial runs in our conditions, the Dutchmen concluded that the experience was in demand and they plan to develop it.
It is important that the Dutchmen, investing into the agroindustrial complex of Belarus and pursuing their commercial interests, would promote new cultivation technologies of agricultural plants and raw material processing, quality improvement of the production and its advancement to European markets.
Closing the forum, the Deputy Chairman of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Vladimir Gusakov noted that there were many noteworthy investment projects profitable for both sides. They are even more interesting, because after Dutch partners organize the joint production with Belarusians, they will open not only a stable and developing market of our country, but also wide Ukrainian and Russian markets.