The Netherlands - a world innovator in agricultural production.The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country, with more than 1,300 inhabitants per square mile. Agricultural land (% of land area) was reported at 54.11 % in 2018, according to the World Bank. It’s bereft of almost every resource long thought to be necessary for large-scale agriculture. Yet it’s the globe’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the United States, which has 270 times its landmass.
The average utilized agricultural area per arable farm in the Netherlands increased from 2000 to 2020. In 2000, the average farmland per arable farm in the Netherlands was 32.5 hectares. By 2020, this average had increased to approximately 41.7 hectares. The nation's agricultural land is also divided into 3 broad types: grasslands, farmlands, and horticultural lands.
As in many other countries, Dutch agriculture has been marked by the decline of the small, family-owned farm and the rise of large corporations that specialize in agriculture. Many Dutch agricultural firms have also become increasingly international and do a significant amount of their business overseas or in other European nations.
These farms enable a country located a scant thousand miles from the Arctic Circle to be a global leader in exports of a fair-weather fruit: the tomato. The Dutch are also the world’s top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables overall in terms of value. More than a third of all global trade in vegetable seeds originates in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands have a temperate maritime climate influenced by the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, with cool summers and moderate winters. Daytime temperatures varies from 2°C-6°C in the winter and 17°C-20°C in the summer. The current average temperature in the Netherlands is about 1°C higher than it was at the start of the 20th century. This has led to a longer growing season: compared to the period 1961–1990, the growing season during the past 15 years has increased by an average of more than 3 weeks.
Since the country is small there is little variation in climate from region to region, although the marine influences are less inland. Rainfall is distributed throughout the year with a dryer period from April to September.
Employment in agriculture (% of total employment) (modeled ILO estimate) in Netherlands was reported at 1.985 % in 2020, according to the World Bank. The volume of labour deployed in the Dutch agricultural sector was equivalent to over 156 thousand full-time jobs (FTEs). Included were nearly 30 thousand full-time jobs of people working on the basis of fixed-term contracts, doing specific or occasional work. The majority of the non-regular labour force - often seasonal workers - were active in horticulture. Especially during planting and harvesting times, more temporary manpower is needed in this sector. The horticultural sector accounted for almost 26 thousand full-time jobs of non-regularly employed persons, nearly 87 percent of these types of jobs in agriculture. Within the horticultural sector, the seasonal workforce was largest at greenhouse vegetable farms. In the areas around Haarlem and in the Westland region, a relatively large part of the agricultural activities were carried out by seasonal workers, namely 61 and 46 percent respectively. The Westland region is known for its greenhouses, where mainly vegetables, flowers and plants are grown. In the north of Noord-Holland province, western Noord-Brabant and large parts of Zuid-Holland as well, a relatively large number of seasonal workers were employed in agriculture
ExportThe estimated 95.6 billion euros export of agricultural goods consists of 68.3 billion euros of exported goods of Dutch origin and 27.3 billion euros of re-export of foreign agricultural goods (2021). Even though imports are great too, the export minus import surplus stands at around € 30 billion – also making the Netherlands the second largest net-exporter in the world after Brazil. The biggest export customer is Germany, which takes 26% of the Netherlands agricultural exports. Neighboring Germany, Belgium, the UK and France together account for 54% of the total. By sector, the biggest exports are flowers (€9.5 billion/$11.4 billion), meat (€8.7 billion/$10.5 billion), dairy and eggs (€8.3 billion/$10 billion), vegetables (€7.1 billion/$8.6 billion) and fruit (€7 billion/$8.4 billion).
Crop production in The Netherlands
Wheat productionWheat production in the Netherlands was estimated at 1.093 million tonnes in 2021, compared with 990,000 in 2020. Barley production is put at 280,000 tonnes, down from 293,000, while maize is put at 154,000 tonnes, up from 130,000 in 2020. The small rye crop is forecast to rise to 6,000 tonnes from 5,000, while output of oats is expected to go up to 6,000 tonnes from 5,000 in 2020. Production of triticale is expected to rise to 8,000 tonnes from 7,000. The production of wheat is the first step in the Dutch bread chain. The Dutch wheat grower typically has a relatively small company compared to the other actors in the chain. Wheat is produced in farms that grow a number of arable farming products; it is grown for profit from yield and for incorporation in a crop rotation in order to avoid the build-up of pathogens and pests that can often occur when one species is cropped continuously. Crop rotations in the Netherlands include potato, sugar beet, onion, barley, carrot, green pea, and wheat; the crops in rotation vary between organic and conventional farming.
The horticultural sectorThe horticultural sector focuses on vegetables and flower bulbs. Dutch greenhouses produce mostly vegetables and flowers like sweet peppers and roses. Horticulture carried on under glass is of special importance. The export of hothouse tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, cut flowers, and houseplants has greatly increased, and the Netherlands now contains a substantial share of the total European horticultural area under glass. Open-air horticulture also produces fruit, vegetables, cut flowers, and bulbs, the latter from the world-famous colorful bulb fields. Greenport Westland is located in the Randstad, the urban area representing the four largest cities in the Netherlands and their surrounding areas. The Greenport is in the proximity of Schiphol airport and Rotterdam harbour. It is 988 km2 and has a population of almost two million. Because of its location, ag$ riculture has a relatively low share (39%) in total land use in this area. Greenport Westland is the largest international greenhouse horticultural cluster in the Netherlands, comprising almost 50% of the total greenhouse horticultural area in the Netherlands.
Greenport Venlo has the largest surface area of the five Greenports; it covers an area of 1,369 km2 and has around 480 thousand inhabitants. It is located in the southeast of the Netherlands and is part of the Technological Top Region Southeast Netherlands. It is an important logistical link within the international relationship between Rotterdam and the Ruhr region. Furthermore, the Green$ port lies in the proximity of several important urban areas in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. Approximately 65% of its land is used for agricultural production, including greenhouse horticulture. The types of vegetables produced on this area are diverse. Apart from greenhouse vegetable production, Greenport Venlo contains a relatively large number of tree nurseries.
Onions and tomatoesOnions and tomatoes were the most frequently grown vegetables in the Netherlands in 2020. Dutch tomato production takes place mostly in greenhouses and 85 percent are sold by grower associations. About 6 percent of arable Dutch agricultural land is used for the cultivation of Holland onions. The Netherlands is also the largest exporter of fresh potatoes in the world. The Netherlands has two varieties potatoes that are protected through the EU geographical indications, the Opperdoezer Ronde and De Meerlander.
Other plantsThe Netherlands is the second largest exporter of sweet peppers after Spain.
The Netherlands is the fifth largest importer of fresh asparagus, almost all of which is re-exported. In 2015, the Netherlands imported $66.9 million, mainly from Peru (83 percent). The Netherlands is the third largest exporter of fresh asparagus and in 2015, exported $77.6 million. White asparagus grown in a southern Dutch region known as Brabantse Wal has been given official European Commission recognition as a protected regional product. The listing means only asparagus grown in the area using traditional methods can carry the label Brabantse Wal. The area around Bergen op Zoom was the center of Dutch asparagus growing until the 1950s. The amount of land used to cultivate asparagus in the Netherlands has gone up 60 percent since 2000.
The Netherlands is the number one exporter of floriculture: cut flowers, bulbs (mostly tulips), and live plants (mostly mushroom spawn) with about a 50 percent share of the global market. Most flower bulbs are still grown in the province of North Holland, but cultivation is spreading across the entire country. The most commonly cultivated flower bulb is the tulip. According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), tulips are grown on almost half of all flower bulb fields.
The Netherlands exported $3 billion of cut flowers in 2015, a 19 percent decrease from the previous year. Thirty percent of the cut flowers were roses. The Netherlands imported $677 million of fresh cut roses, about 63 percent of which were from Kenya and Ethiopia. A considerable amount of these roses are sold through the Aalsmeer flower auction and then re-exported to other EU countries. The history of Dutch flower auctions goes back hundreds of years to now where they are the hub of the global flower trade and worldwide leaders in setting the price of plants and flowers. The auctions move over 60 percent of the world’s trade in cut flowers and 40 percent of the trade in houseplants. Buyers arrive in the morning and with the push of a button they bid on dizzying array of plants and flowers. It used to be that all flowers sold at the auction were physically present, but this is not necessarily the case anymore. For the most part, buyers are looking at photos with information about the size, length and health of their flowers.
The Netherlands is a trade hub for foliage within Europe where all species of foliage are traded. In 2015, the Netherlands exported $239 million of foliage for ornamental purposes, a decrease of three percent, mainly to Germany, France and the UK.
Pears and apples were the most frequently grown fruits in the Netherlands in 2020. That year, the pear production was just under 374,000 metric tons. The apple production was estimated to be roughly 234,000 metric tons. In 2020, the fresh fruit production in the Netherlands was roughly 713,000 metric tons.
Livestock in The NetherlandsThe Netherlands is the EU’s biggest meat exporter. It has also one of the largest livestock industries in Europe, with more than 100 million cattle, chickens and pigs. The country had average densities of 14 goats, 93 cattle, 298 pigs and 2372 poultry per km2 in 2018 Dutch cows are so famous for their milk production, they are even exported themselves. Traditionally, the breeds in the Netherlands were the Friesian Hollands; the Maas, Rijn and Ijssel; and the Groningen. Nowadays, Holstein Friesian is the dominant breed, accounting for more than 90 percent of Dutch cattle.
The milk production accounts for 1.2% of the national economy. Milk is produced at 20,000 farms, of which 95% are specialised dairy farms, keeping an average of 85 dairy cows. In the northern half of the country grass is the dominant feed for dairy cattle, whilst in the southern half of the country a mixture of grass and maize silage is used. Farms produce on average 14,000 kg milk per hectare of land. The number of dairy goats in the Netherlands increased rapidly from 2000 to 2020. At the start of the millennium, there were less than 100,000 dairy goats in the Netherlands. By 2020, this number had almost quintupled to over 476,000 animals. In 2020, there were just under 570 dairy goat farms in the Netherlands. The majority of these farms were large scale farms, with over 150 animals. Just under 380 farms in the Netherlands kept over 150 dairy goats. By contrast, there were roughly 100 farms with four or fewer dairy goats. The number of pigs in the Netherlands decreased slightly in the 21st century. In 2000, there were approximately 13.1 million pigs in the Netherlands. By 2020, this number had decreased to approximately 12 million. The pig industry in the Netherlands is in the process of shrinking by 6.7% – equalling a total of 278 swine farms. That is the consequence of a stricter environmental legislation policy.
Forest industry in The NetherlandsCurrently, around 10% of the land surface in the Netherlands is covered by forest. That amounts to approximately 360.000 ha. However, Dutch forests are rather fragmented with forest patches often being smaller than 5 ha. The distribution of forests by ownership types ‘state’ and ‘private’ are with 50% equal. The growing stock accounts to nearly 200 m3 per hectare. The annual increment is at around 8 m3 per hectare ~55% of which is harvested every year. Production forests are of limited economic importance as far as wood production is concerned.
Fishing industry in The NetherlandsThe Dutch fishing industry, while not large, is nevertheless significant. At the beginning of the 21st century, three-fourths of the fish consumed in the Netherlands was foreign-caught, yet about four-fifths of the total catch was exported. As a result, the country is unusual in exporting more fish than it imports. Seafood consumption has risen substantially in the Netherlands over the past 2 decades. Dutch fishermen harvest some 407,000 metric tons of seafood each year. About half of this is consumed locally and the rest exported. The Dutch also import significant amounts