It is indeed not a logical fact that the Netherlands specializes in agriculture and horticulture.These sectors deliver much less than for example the services sector or the technical sector. If you want to increase yield it is a much better idea to start making televisions or cars than to grow potatoes. If you want to invest it is a better idea to do that in software than a farm. This is something we see all over the world: countries moving from an agricultural society to an industrial or knowledge-based economy are becoming richer. Per hectare of land it takes more to put houses or factories than agriculture.
This is also what we see in the rest of Europe: at the moment salaries rise in the years 70 and people get richer, they move away from farms.These do not deliver so much more, and it is more attractive to look for work in, for example, the services sector than to start working on your father’s farm. Also, farmers cannot compete with the low prices of products imported from abroad, because their cost of life also goes up and they have to increase their prices. In short, from the years 70 onwards, most prosperous countries are focusing more on trade and knowledge, and more agricultural products are imported.
Why not in the Netherlands?It is not at all logical that they are currently retaining their agricultural sector, it would be more advantageous to focus on other markets. The answer is: agricultural organisations. The Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation (LTO) and other organisations and trade unions did not agree with the fact that so many farmers could not get around politically. They began to lobby and put pressure on politics to meet them. The government came up with a dilemma: they had to stimulate the economy but also revive their primary sector, agriculture, while it threatened to be a cost.
Then you may wonder why farmers and livestock breeders in the Netherlands could put this pressure on, and this did not happen in other countries where the same developments were happening.This is because the agriculture and horticulture traditionally and historically have always been well represented in the Socio-Economic Council (SER) an important body. Similar councils are also in other countries, but this sector is almost over-represented and is not so common.
Anyway, the Government had to maintain the agricultural sector, but to ensure that it would actually be profitable, productivity had to be up.More revenue with fewer resources. And to achieve this, they gave an enormous amount of research money to the Wageningen Agricultural University, which was tasked with making agricultural production more efficient. Scientists worked together with farmers to get more out of the ground, where there is already so little of it… Thanks to these subsidies and investments, the Netherlands soon became a forerunner with new technologies and intensive agriculture and horticulture.
This is why the Netherlands is still at the forefront of agriculture, lobbying and agricultural organisations in the years 70, and investment in scientific research.
An English movie that gives a good overview of this history:
A few more sources about Dutch agriculture for the enthusiast:
C茅line, that’s a very good question, and thank you for having put it to me!
The Netherlands has some reasonably unique features that are not or limited in the rest of Europe.
One of the most important is the polder, where land is extracted from marshes and lakes.The polder is very fertile, although not all polders are used for growing vegetables.
A further development comes from the relatively fast emerging science in the Netherlands: breeding.This is the process of natural selection accelerating and influencing, allowing certain properties to be strengthened and other weakened.
The Netherlands has one of the forerunners in the field of nature, food and the environment with Wageningen University.
Another turnout is glasshouse horticulture, the greenhouses.In the Netherlands the weather is not always nice, but when you place a conservatory on your H UIs you have a nice warm spot in the winter on sunny days. This has been applied on a larger scale in vegetable cultivation, where artificial light and constant temperature are intended to produce a predictable yield.
But not only greenhouse horticulture plays a role here, also the high demand from Germany to vegetables from the Netherlands, and the very good infrastructure in the Netherlands that allows transport of perishable where long distances are involved, plays a role.The refrigeration technology has also been a major development here.
All this has resulted in very good products that can be sold at a decent price, making it economically attractive to invest in it.
The Netherlands is geographically special.We have a particularly flat landscape, a relatively high population and a reasonable distribution of our population. You have never been removed in the Netherlands more than 5 minutes from a form of civilization. Every trail you come across is maintained in a way, is on a map and is part of a route. There is actually no untouched nature in the Netherlands. On the other hand, we have few really large cities and there is still a lot of ‘ nature ‘ to be found. Because of this we also have an extremely good infrastructure across the country.
We have learned how we can deal with each other and our limited environment.We have become efficient in this. This translates into an efficiency of our fruit and vegetable cultivation.
Political measures that stimulated the technology sector in agriculture, thus letting agriculture itself flourish in a significant industry
- Wageningen University has been pronounced active in this and was the founder of the practical sciences and technologies for this sector
- This allowed farmers to produce efficiently and compete on world markets
We have good pastures, good arable land, huge horticultural greenhouses (Westland, A.O.), a lot of knowledge and sufficient research opportunities to improve, broaden and enlarge the knowledge about and specialisation in vegetable (and fruit) cultivation.
Many more or better reasons than the above are not necessary.;-)