Importance of the sector

In the Netherlands, the annual milk production is more than 700 kg per capita while the global average is 105 kg. In 2012 The Netherland was the fifth milk producer per capita in the world after New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark and Belarus. Being a small and densely populated country the Dutch have always invested in knowledge and innovation to use less resources, while producing more milk of better quality. 

Importance of the sector

Dairy and health

Dairy forms a big part of the Dutch diet. Worldwide we have earned the nickname “cheeseheads”, because of our love for cheese. Besides having a reputation of eating a lot of cheese, milk consumption in the Netherlands is one of the highest in the world. According to the statistics, the dairy consumption in the Netherland is in the top 30 of the world.

Dairy is rich in proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals like calcium and vitamin B2 and B12. The consumption of dairy products also increases the vitamin D in the organism, which is crucial for humans’ health. Calcium is indispensable for healthy bones and teeth but also for good functioning muscles and digestive system. Recent research show positive health effects related to the consumption of higher quantities of dairy, because of its more balanced composition of the nutrients with relatively lower calorie content.


Dairy farming occupies 60% of the total arable farmland in Netherland. For dairy farmers, sustainability is about their ability to farm ten years into the future. The size of the farms increases while the number of farms decreases. Through networks that support learning, dairy farmers in the Netherland are developing their own innovations. In the past, a farmer focused on saving labor costs. This resulted into the development of innovative stable concepts with trade-offs on overall protein efficiency and animal longevity. Recently, innovative Dutch farmers are revaluing the link between farming and nature and focus on the soil-plant-animal-manure cycles in order to close the nutrient cycles and increase the farm efficiency and income. Product optimization instead of product maximization is the new endeavor.

The constant growth of the world population and decrease of the available agricultural lands worldwide are putting increasing importance and urgency on innovation -“use less, produce more and better”. The Dutch agricultural sector is taking responsibility and invests in research and development of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies through cooperation with world-known research institutes like Wageningen University. For example, in 2013, the dairy sector in the Netherlands reduced its energy use in the dairy chain by 5% in comparison with 2012. They are pursuing an average 2% decrease every year till 2020. Friesland Campina’s CSR policy focused on five main problems: solutions to combat malnutrition; more efficient use of raw materials, water and energy; helping small farms in Asia and Africa; reducing methane emissions and promoting animal welfare. In short, Dutch dairy industry has been in the leading position in the field of sustainable production, and has excellent examples for the world to learn from.

Dairy, an engine of the Dutch economy

The Dutch dairy sector is one of the most important economic powers in the Netherlands. In 2014, Dutch dairy farming and the dairy industry had a total production value of 12 billion euros, of which 7 billion euros worth of products were exported to other parts of the world. It has offered 45 000 jobs in total in the Netherlands, 1/6 of the total food industries, which is even bigger than the Dutch electrical appliance, pharmaceutical or the automobile industries. An increase from 3.8 billion (2005) to 7 billion euros (2014) for dairy export, means a significant average growth of 7% per year. This, combined with the fact that the Netherlands is strategically located in Europe with excellent logistical infrastructure, renders the Dutch dairy to be a very positive potential market perspective for the future.