Q&A: Agriculture Counsellor Office In The Hague

Across five days in September, viewers in Europe and around the world were introduced to interesting and delicious ways to combine Malaysian and European flavours in their cooking. 

What they did not see were the many brainstorming sessions we held with the ACO in The Hague in the lead-up to the campaign, in particular with Mr. Salim (Agriculture Counsellor) and Ms. Fariha (First Secretary).

#MYFlavoursEurope was the brainchild of the Agriculture Counsellor Office in The Hague, even while MOMC was tasked with its implementation.

Let’s find out a bit more about the work of the ACO in the following Q&A.

Front: Muhamed Salim Bin Mohd Ali (Agriculture Counsellor) Back (left to right): Indra Sapta Ramli (Office Assistant), Rene Van Der Laan (Marketing Officer), Fariha Binti Edrous (Agriculture First Secretary)

What is the role of the Agriculture Counsellor Office (ACO)?

Well, the ACO is a set-up under the Business Development & Investment (BDI) Division of the Ministry of Agriculture & Food Industries (MAFI) Malaysia. 

There are 7 regional ACOs around the world based in Thailand (Bangkok), Australia (Sydney), United Arab Emirates (Dubai), Japan (Tokyo), China (Beijing), USA (Washington DC) and The Netherlands (The Hague) covering all important and upcoming markets.

 

Muhamed Salim Bin Mohd Ali (Agriculture Counsellor)

 For your information, our office in The Hague covers the UK, 27 EU countries, 4 EFTA countries and Russia (33 countries). There are many important roles of the office, including facilitating market access especially when it comes to complying with EU rules & regulations as well as sanitary & phytosanitary (SPS) matters. 

The office is also involved in marketing and promotional activities to strengthen existing market and to explore new market opportunities. 

Through discussions, consultations and observations, the office also produces policy & market reports. 

This includes the strategies to increase the potential of Malaysian agriculture sector, be it fresh, frozen or processed, in order to gain better visibility and access in relevant markets. 

The office also explores investment & technology opportunities and represents Malaysia in international meetings to safeguard the agriculture sector’s interest.

How can Malaysia be at the forefront of the Agriculture sector in the EU?

Malaysia has a lot to offer especially through its tropical fruits and a variety of food products & ingredients. However, the industry is also faced with competition from other markets and this requires competitiveness at the international level. MAFI and its other agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Department of Fisheries (DOF), Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM), Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (FAMA) and other authorities are constantly formulating policies that could assist and ease the exporters. 

Fariha Binti Edrous (Agriculture First Secretary)

As for now, Malaysian tropical fruits can be seen in major supermarkets and the demand & supply needs to be consistent. Food products on the other hand, still appeals to the oriental market. However, this also means that we are competing in a red ocean strategy since similar products are also available from other countries. Therefore, we need to slowly shift this perspective to get more international buy-in so that a bigger market could be created for this segment, which would then increase domestic exports.

How do EU Regulations impact the performance of Malaysia’s Agriculture sector?

The EU highly emphasizes on food safety and this can be seen though its stringent rules and regulations. Therefore, the industry needs to be vigilant and venture into products that meet the EU’s quality requirements. As far as fresh produce is concerned, Malaysia needs to adhere the requirements set by the authorities such as the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) as well as the requirements set by importers such as the Global G.A.P and other social responsibility certifications. The EU basically accepts most of the fresh produce imports, but of course, the exporters also need to comply with the requirements that has been set by the authorities.

Dato’ Nadzirah Osman (Ambassador of Malaysia to The Netherlands), centre, at the Malaysian Food & Fruits Week at Wah Nam Hong in The Hague

How do you see the Malaysian Agriculture sector over the next 5 years in the EU?

The office is currently executing its 5 year strategic plan, whereby it foresees the agriculture sector to be visible, resilient and sustainable in order to meet the growing demand from the EU market. The development of certain niche markets such as the vegan segment at the domestic level is equally important to spur growth for future market. With the execution of well-planned strategies, it is anticipated that there will be more fresh, frozen and processed Malaysian products in the EU region, with better packaging, labelling and high certification standards. Hopefully there will also be more companies established in the EU to promote and create demand for Malaysian food products and tropical fruits in the future. 

Malaysian Food & Fruits Week 2021, The Netherlands

What are the promotional strategies organised by the Agriculture Counsellor Office for 2021?

“All programs are carried out with the support of The Embassy of Malaysia in various countries, Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and FAMA.”

This year we have organised several in-store and on-line promotional programs to expand the market access of tropical fruits, frozen and processed products. All programs are carried out with the support of The Embassy of Malaysia in various countries, Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and FAMA. 

Among the programs for this year are ‘Malaysian Flavours in Europe’ in collaboration with Masters of Malaysian Cuisine (MOMC) from 8 – 12 September covering the UK, The Netherlands, Germany & Hungary.

This is followed by Malaysian Food & Fruits Week (MFFW) in collaboration with Wah Nam Hong oriental supermarket (5 stores) from 25 September – 2 October and Taste of Malaysia (TOM) in collaboration with Amazing Oriental (21 stores) from 10 – 23 November, also taking place in The Netherlands. 

The office has also conducted and planned various Webinars with industry players in order to further promote the agriculture sector in the UK, EU & Russia.

#MYFlavoursEurope MAFI-MOMC Live Cooking Demonstration Series 2021

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