Initial Plant Material

The Dutch plant breeding and propagation industry produces seeds and young plants for the agricultural and horticultural sectors. Dutch plant breeding and propagating companies are among the best in the world and many of the largest producers of plant reproduction materials are based in the Netherlands.

Initial Plant Material
A Dutch motor for innovation

The contribution to Dutch exports is large: almost 40% of the world’s seed trade for horticulture and arable farming originates from the Netherlands. For seed potatoes, the share is even larger at almost 60%. These companies also create value for the rest of the chain through their innovative products. The considerable investments in Research & Development (R&D) also contribute to the Dutch knowledge infrastructure. The sector invests 15% of the turnover, on average in R&D. That is more than is the case in many other knowledge-intensive sectors, such as the pharmaceutical industry.

An overview of the facts

In 2010, the plant breeding and propagation industry consisted of around 300 specialised breeding and propagation companies. Between 8,000 and 10,000 people are estimated to work in this sector. The total turnover is estimated at more than two billion euros. The plant reproduction materials industry comprises three sub-sectors, namely for agriculture, vegetable horticulture, and ornamental horticulture.1 The average return on the equity capital makes it one of the sectors in the Dutch agricultural chain with the best returns. The impact on the rest of the agricultural chain is also considerable: one euro’s-worth of seed results in a value of around 100 euros in a retail chain store. The total export value of plant reproduction materials amounts to around 1.5 billion euros. Since 2001, the export value of plant reproduction materials has increased by about 75%. The share of
plant reproduction materials in the Netherlands’ total exports is 0.5%.

Economics and trade

In 2010, the sector consisted of more than 300 specialised breeding and propagation companies.2 Around 100 companies are active within vegetable horticulture, and the same number is active within plant reproduction materials for arable crops. The subsector of plant reproduction materials for ornamentals counts around 130 companies. Between 8,000 and 10,000 employees are estimated to work in the plant breeding and propagation industry. On the basis of various sources, it is estimated that around 1,000 to 1,500 people work in the subsector of plant reproduction materials for arable crops, between 4,000 and 4,500 in the subsector for vegetables, and 3,000 to 3,500 in the subsector for ornamentals.

Research, development and innovation

The plant breeding and propagation industry spends a lot of money on innovation and R&D: approximately 15% of the turnover.5 Compared with other sectors this percentage is still high: the EU average for R&D expenditure in the seed industry is around 12.5%. The R&D expenditure as a percentage of turnover is also high compared with other knowledge-intensive sectors. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry in the Netherlands spends an average of 10% of its turnover on R&D, while for the 1,000 largest companies in the world that figure is about 3.75%. The difference compared with other sectors in the Netherlands is huge: the Dutch average in industry is approximately 4.7%. The plant breeding and propagation industry therefore makes an above-average contribution to the Dutch knowledge infrastructure.


Plant reproduction materials - A Dutch motor for export and innovation