TRADE AND MARKET I NG To ensure the continued survival of our cooperative, it’s important to have our On 13 February, the members of the Royal-ZAP cooperative in Ewijcksluis adopted the takeover of seed potato merchant Semagri in Lelystad. Semagri’s director/owner Lammert Buwalda (67) is very happy that he can transfer the company, which he set up in 2002, to the cooperative with the full confidence of its members. ‘I’ve always had a very strong connection with ZAP, and that’s why they were the first party I wanted to talk to about a possible takeover.’ Royal-ZAP Managing Director Gerard de Geus is also very happy about his acquisition. ‘It’s not so long ago that we came to the conclusion that for the continued survival of our cooperative it’s important that we have our own varieties. So it seemed better that we take over a company that already has this expertise.’ To start with, gentlemen, congratulations on the takeover. And to come straight to the point, the first question for both of you is, how did you find each other? ‘Thank you for your congratulations’, Buwalda answers first. ‘It wasn’t really all that difficult to find each other’, he continues in the same breath. ‘Thirty years ago, I worked for the then potato trading company Wolf & Wolf. ‘We had a very strong connection with ZAP in those days. Once a month, we met to discuss business. I’ve always had good memories about that period, when I also knew Gerard.’ After the period at Wolf & Wolf – which merged with the Agrico cooperative in 1993 – De Geus and Buwalda kept in touch where business matters were concerned. ‘A year and a half ago’, Buwalda had just reached retirement age, he says with a laugh, ‘Gerard phoned me and said:” when you finally decide to sell the business, we’d like to come and talk to you about it. But at that time I wasn’t quite ready yet, so I didn’t immediately take up the offer. After that, I was asked the same question by other companies, both in the Netherlands and abroad. Last autumn, the time had come to have a look at all those interested parties. I then came to the conclusion that, if I wanted to talk with one of them, it would have to be ZAP. It wasn’t only that it gave me a good feeling but, bearing in mind ZAP’s activities and my own, I also thought that the two companies were the most suited. ‘As ZAP, we’ve been talking about wanting to expand our activities for a long time’, De Geus adds. ‘We’re operating in the northern-most part of the province of North Holland on a relatively small acreage. We expand a little bit every year, but always by taking small steps of no more 10 hectares a year. Last year, we expanded from 880 to 890 hectares, for example. This means that we’ve always looked for possible partners for a takeover and that’s why I approached Lammert to ask if he was interested in selling his business to us.’ In an interview in our journal following the 100th anniversary in 2013 you said: ‘For 100 years now we’ve stuck to working together with others, but not to going together.’ Have you abandoned that belief? ‘What I meant is that we don’t want to be taken over by other parties. The other way round, us taking over another party, is rather interesting though. Another thing is that we then only focused on expanding the cropping area. It’s not so long ago, really, that we came to the conclusion that to ensure the continued survival of our cooperative, it’s important to have our own varieties. In the current market, this is becoming increasingly necessary if we want to keep a strong position. However, it costs a lot of time and money to start a breeding division and we weren’t all that keen to pick that ‘When you decide to sell your business, we’d like to come Buwalda eighteen months ago. The deal is now done. up ourselves. So, it seemed better to take over a company that already has its own varieties and that’s why I popped the takeover question to Lammert.’ Buwalda wholeheartedly agrees that breeding costs a lot of time and money, especially when a particular multiplication sometimes turns out to be highly problematic, he mentions as an example. 4 Potato World 2017 • number 3 Pagina 3

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