Toespraak van Zijne Majesteit de Koning bij de "Food and Agribusiness" conferentie ter gelegenheid van het staatsbezoek aan Japan, Tokio

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen,

Eight months ago, Prime Minister Abe was in the Netherlands to attend the Nuclear Security Summit. He took the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, as well as the Rijksmuseum with its world-famous Rembrandts and Vermeers. But he also took the time to pay another visit … to the greenhouse of a bell pepper grower in a small
village near The Hague.

His interest in Dutch horticulture is one of the main reasons that we are here together this morning. Mr. Nishikawa, I should like to thank the Japanese government for its commitment and its willingness to exchange ideas on this topic. It testifies to the Japanese

We need to talk about food and about how to improve food production. In the interest of both our countries. And in the interest of the world.

The Earth has many mouths to feed. And every minute, a hundred and sixty more are added. At the same time, agricultural land is shrinking each year.

In highly developed countries like Japan and the Netherlands, increasing demands are being placed on farmers and growers. We ask a lot of them. We want the certainty that there will always be enough food. We want food to be of high quality. We want food that will help us stay healthy. We want to protect the environment. We want to make efficient use of scarce space. And we want our food to be affordable.

That makes working in agriculture extremely challenging. Many young people think twice about taking over the family farm.

The average age of Japanese farmers is now 67. Every 20 years, the number of consumers who rely on a single farmer doubles . So farmers have to make production more efficient.

The way we produce food can be improved. Four thousand litres of fresh water are needed to produce one day's food for a single person, at a time when water is becoming ever scarcer. Agriculture accounts for almost a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. And over a third of the world's food is lost during processing and transport. Or simply wasted!

Japanese and Dutch scientists are working hard to find solutions for the future. Both our countries are international leaders in food technology. That makes us natural partners.

The Netherlands believes in the future of farming. We know that an urbanised country with very little space can still be a world leader in agriculture. The Netherlands is the same size as the Japanese island of Kyushu. Our soil is not especially fertile and our climate is not ideal. Yet the Netherlands is the world's biggest agricultural exporter after the United States, and the quality of our produce is famous. Dutch seeds find their way to every continent and ensure plentiful harvests in many countries.

How is that possible? The answer is: innovation.

Thanks to innovation, Dutch productivity is five times higher than the European average. That means five-fold yields per hectare. Greenhouse horticulture, in particular, has brought about an agricultural revolution. And growers, consumers and the environment are reaping
the rewards.

In the open field you need 60 litres of water to produce a single kilo of tomatoes. In a greenhouse, four litres is sufficient.

Hi-tech greenhouses no longer cost energy. Instead they generate energy.

And the burden on the environment is reduced, too. Inside the greenhouse, insects are taking over the job of insecticides to keep plants healthy.

The Netherlands is proud that four out of every five greenhouses in use outside Europe are of Dutch origin. And the process of innovation continues, in your country too. Japan is leading the way with the introduction of plant factories, where food is grown in buildings in urban centres, close to consumers. In the future, this could make food production twice as efficient as in the best greenhouse.

These days, farming is high tech. The Netherlands is eager to work with Japan on innovations that will boost the economy. Innovations that can provide more work for young farmers and growers.

We admire and respect the way Japan is working to recover after the destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. We are glad to be assisting in the reconstruction of the Tohoku region - Tokyo's vegetable garden. One of the partners helping in this process is a bell pepper grower from a small village near The Hague. It's no coincidence that this is the same business Prime Minister Abe visited eight months ago.

I know that Japan has major ambitions to reform its farming sector and to boost its production and exports. The Netherlands is only too glad to share its knowledge and experience with you.

I hope that the seeds sown at this conference will bear plenty of fruit for Japan and the Netherlands in the coming years.

Thank you.