The Netherlands is one of the world’s largest exporters of agricultural and food products, thanks to its innovative agro food technology. The Dutch agro food sector is a sustainable source of healthy, safe food that is produced with respect for nature and the environment.

Holland is world – leading exporter of agro – food products

agricultureThe 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 favorable 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.

Facts and figures

  • Holland is the world’s 2nd largest exporter of agricultural products, after the USA. Together with the USA and France, Holland is one of the top 3 exporters of vegetables and fruit;
  • The total value of Dutch agricultural exports was 75.4 billion euros in 2012;
  • The Dutch agro – food industry contributes 52.5 billion euros of added value to Dutch GDP, and accounting for some 20% of Holland’s total export value;
  • The Netherlands is responsible for 22% of the world’s potato exports;
  • The Netherlands has the second highest private R&D investment rate (as % of GDP) in agro – 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;
  • Two Dutch universities are in the European top 10 with regard to the number of publications on agro – food subjects;
  • The Food Valley region, centered at Wageningen University and Research Center, is one of the most authoritative agro – food and nutrition research centers in Europe;
  • NIZO food research owns the largest food testing pilot plant in Europe and is open to the entire food and ingredient industry;
  • Holland is a global market leader in machinery for, for example, poultry and red meat processing, bakery and cheese production;
  • 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;
  • The agricultural sector makes up approximately 10 percent of the Dutch economy and provides work and income for more than 660,000 people;
  • More than half of the Netherlands’ total land surface of 4.15 million hectares is used as farmland. 56 percent if used for arable and horticultural crops, 42 percent is permanent grassland and 2 percent is used for permanent crops;
  • In 2010, there were more than 10,000 hectares of greenhouses in the Netherlands. Half of this, 5,000 hectares, was used for growing vegetables;
  • Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are the biggest greenhouse crops;
  • The most common arable crops are: potatoes (seed, starch and edible), winter corn, summer barley, sugar beets and onions;
  • Of the one hundred most competitive products produced in the Netherlands, about half derive from the agriculture and food sector.


*Sources: HollandTrade , CBS, LTO, WageningenUniversity & ResearchCentre (2012)

Useful links: – The Dutch Federation of Agriculture and Horticulture (LTO) – The Dutch Dairy Association NZO – The Dutch Independent Research Organization (TNO) – Wageningen University – Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation – Netherlands Potato Consultative Foundation – Public/private partnership with focus on the Indian market

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