Agriculture & Food

Holland is world-leading exporter of agri-food products

The Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products, after the USA. Together with the USA and France, the Netherlands is one of the world’s three leading producers of vegetables and fruit. It supplies a quarter of the vegetables that are exported from Europe. The agri-business is one of the driving forces behind the Dutch economy. At the same time, it poses challenges to the environment. In recent decades, farms became larger in scale and production became more intensive. As a result, fertilizers and manure made more impact on the countryside. Farming had to become more sustainable, the Dutch government said. Today, the Dutch agricultural sector is strongly focused on sustainability: it is a source of healthy, safe food that is produced with respect for the landscape and the environment.

The Dutch agricultural sector is diverse; it covers a wide range of livestock and plant-cultivation sectors that include, for example, arable and dairy farming, cultivation under glass, tree-growing and pig farming.

Key aspects and strengths

  • The Dutch agricultural sector benefits from Holland’s mild climate, flat and fertile soil and favourable geographical location at the heart of Europe.
  • Expertise, infrastructure, the food processing industry, commerce and logistics are all on an extremely high level in the Netherlands.
  • For decades, Dutch agriculture has succeeded in maintaining its lead over international competitors by continually investing in the renewal of agricultural production chains.
  • Farmers and growers are full partners in the agricultural production chain. Their primary task is to produce food, flowers and plants with an optimum price/quality radio using innovative, socially responsible and sustainable methods.
  • Despite tight profit margins, agricultural businesses have invested substantially in environmental protection and implemented improvements in animal welfare.
  • The Netherlands has the second highest private R&D investment rate (as % of GDP) in agri-food in Europe.
  • Four of the world’s top 25 food and beverage companies are Dutch and 12 have a major production site or R&D facilities in the Netherlands.
  • The Food Valley region, centred at Wageningen University and Research Center, is one of the most authoritative agri-food and nutrition research centres in Europe.
  • NIZO food research owns the largest food testing pilot plant in Europe and is open to the entire food and ingredient industry.
  • Dutch agricultural entrepreneurs use efficient and sustainable production systems and processes, resulting in a productivity that is five times higher than the European average.
  • There are some 50,000 farmers, or agricultural entrepreneurs, in the Netherlands, distributed over various crop and animal sectors such as arable (crop) farming, dairy farming and pig farming.


Source: Statistics Netherlands (CBS), Dutch Federation of Agricultural and Horticultural Organisations (LTO), Wageningen University and Research Centre (2012).