In 2015 about 2/3 of Dutch soil was reserved for agricultural purposes. Early 2019 there were 53.919 registered farmers (“boeren”) in the Netherlands, representing 0,6 % of total Dutch employment. The average balance sheet value of agricultural enterprises is about 3.5 million euro. For the Calvinist Dutch farmers the adage applies: “live poor, die rich”. Dutch farmers live for their work, are extremely frugal, highly competent, open for technological innovation. As a result, although the Netherlands is one of the smallest countries in this world, its agricultural exports ranks second (94B) and only has to tolerate the US (150B) ahead of itself and that with 250 times less soil and 19 times fewer people. It goes without saying that the agricultural lobby is very powerful in the Netherlands. Perhaps a little too powerful.
Most farmers are active in dairy farming (16,000), next crop farmers (11,000), horticulture (6,700) and pig farming (5,300). Their produce needs to be harvested, sold at an auction, transported, processed and sold again to consumers. All in all, for every farmer, 10 people work in related employment or ca. 6% of total “Dutch” employment. It needs to be added that the vast majority of agricultural field workers are foreigners, mostly Eastern Europeans (80% or more).
Remaining land use: urban environment 14%, nature 14%, water 5%, recreation 3%.
In the Netherlands a conflict is brewing about the role of agriculture. Isn’t the sector too big? Does a small country like the Netherlands really need to be the 2nd agricultural exporter in the world, with agriculture claiming most of the scarce land? Aren’t Brexit and climate a good opportunity to scale down this sector, to the benefit of nature?
[parool.nl] – Dit draagt het boerenbedrijf bij aan de welvaart
[agrimatie.nl] – Balanswaarde land- en tuinbouwbedrijven
[humboldt.global] – Top 10 Agricultural Exporters