It’s nothing short of a miracle! The Netherlands – compact in size and very densely populated – has become the world’s second-biggest agrifood exporter and the world’s third-largest agricultural exporter.
The Netherlands has a favourable climate and fertile soil types and, consequently, it boasts a flourishing agricultural sector. Its agri-food sector is a global leader in terms of innovation
and volume. In absolute figures the Netherlands generates 7.5% of global exports in agricultural and food products, surpassed only by the US. This is an astounding performance for such a small country. The Dutch are also renowned for their turnkey approach, which they export to trading partners abroad. Aviko for example was founded in 1962 by a small group of potato farmers and is now the second-largest potato processing business in Europe and one of the largest suppliers of chilled French fries in the world. Its objective is to transform the humble potato into a pre-processed convenience product and its range of meal options is a response to increasing consumer demand for convenience products. Its products can be found in the frozen and chilled sections of most supermarkets. The Dutch food processing industry includes a number of large multinationals: 8 out of 25 of the largest Dutch companies are food processing businesses. In addition, there is a remarkably
high number of successful medium-sized companies (with 200-500 employees) operating in the sector.
Dutch agri-food and agricultural products enjoy a worldwide reputation for their taste, nutritional value and food safety aspects. Proportionately, the agri-food sector in the Netherlands accounts for one of the largest shares of national industrial production in the European Union. In fact, Dutch food companies include some of the world’s top-players, such as Unilever, Heineken, DSM, FrieslandCampina, Numico, CSM and VION.
Read more on the Dutch Agro-Food sector in the Made in Holland brochure of the Netherlands Enterprice Agency.
So how did the Dutch become food producers ‘par excellence’?
Part of the explanation lies in the country’s good fortune in being situated on one of the most fertile river deltas on the planet. Age-old tradition plays a major role, too. As early as the 17th century, the town of Zaandam boasted the world’s largest food-processing industry and was home to many hundreds of wind-powered factories; a Dutch innovation. The foundation for the Dutch dairy industry was laid some 2000 years ago, when farmers began perfecting the breeding of the Friesian Cow. The archetypal Dutch black-and-white cow has meanwhile gone global and now accounts for a staggering one-third of all dairy cows in the world!
What also sets the Dutch agri-food sector apart is the longstanding, close cooperation amongst all players in the field: farmers and growers, food companies, equipment manufacturers, scientists and government. This has given the country a tremendous edge when it comes to competing on the world stage. Throughout the land, innovative companies work together with academic institutions and centres of excellence. Many agri-food companies are clustered around the University of Wageningen, which carries out research into many aspects of food production. The cities of Utrecht, Maastricht and Groningen, which have strong medical research centres, also attract food production companies concerned with the nutritional and functional aspects of foodstuffs.
The Dutch realised early-on that today’s global consumers increasingly demand three things from the food they eat: it must be tasty, healthy and safe. The increasing emphasis on healthy eating – as part of a health-conscious lifestyle – is now driving many of the current innovations in the sector. Add traditional Dutch salesmanship into the mix and you have the perfect recipe for success!
There is a running joke that the Dutch are both born merchants, and moralists. Whatever the case may be, the Dutch government is very keen to help developing countries to establish a vibrant, domestic agricultural sector, with the dual aims of being able to feed their indigenous populations and earn much-needed income in the global marketplace. Dutch companies operating internationally, have developed highly advanced yet practical solutions, such as crops requiring little land, water, heating or sunlight.
Source: Here's Holland 2013
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