Figures - Agriculture
Yields in greenhouse vegetable cultivation have increased substantially. In 1950, cucumber cultivation yielded approximately 10 kg per square metre. This had risen to nearly 70 kg per square metre by 2016. For tomato growers, yields rose nearly 8-fold. Innovations have played an important role in this growth. From the mid-1960s onwards, greenhouses were heated by natural gas from Slochteren, and the residual CO2 – not containing pollutants such as flue gases – could be used for fertilising purposes.
In the 1970s, crop growing on substrate was introduced, allowing better control of temperatures as well as better delivery of moisture and nutrients.
As shown by this graph, developments in the Dutch livestock population have been fairly volatile. After the introduction of milk quotas and the imposition of fines for excess milk production (super levies) in 1984, the mature dairy cattle population declined considerably. Anticipating the abolition of the milk quota system, dairy farmers started to slowly increase their livestock herds. By 1 April 2015, the number of dairy cows had increased again to 1.62 million, and the population increased further to 1.74 million by 1 April 2016.
Meanwhile, structural measures have been taken which are aimed at reducing the dairy herd in order to meet phosphate limits. These include a subsidy scheme which will pay farmers who want to fully stop producing milk (the Stoppersregeling), as well as a step-by-step reduction of the dairy herd on dairy farms.
Employment levels in agriculture and horticulture have decreased markedly since 1950. There were 580 thousand permanent workers in 1950. This number had dropped to 172 thousand by 2016. The average labour force now amounts to 3.1 per holding. The number is highest in the greenhouse areas of Westland and around Aalsmeer. The decline was mainly due to mechanisation, rationalisation and increasing scale.
Most farms do not have an exclusive successor. Of the 25 thousand agricultural holdings where the holder is 55 years old or over, more than 15 thousand do not have any successors. The share is higher among the larger holdings (up to 70 percent) than among medium-sized holdings (50 percent). The small holdings find it especially difficult to find a successor: in 2016, only one in four had arranged for this.
Dairy farms are relatively most likely to find a successor. Least likely are sheep farms, as well as pot-plant and bedding-plant holdings.
Cut flower production under glass has decreased by 40 percent in the span of a decade. The area of land used for lilies was down by 40 percent, while the area for freesias has almost been halved. The area used for roses decreased by nearly two-thirds. Cut flower production in the Netherlands is affected by competition from African countries in particular.
Cultivation of rye and oats has seen a steep fall since 1950s, nearly disappearing from the Netherlands by 2016. Rye (1.6 thousand hectares) and oats (1.5 thousand hectares) were primarily used as fodder and have been replaced by silage maize and soy. Barley, on the other hand (at 35 thousand hectares), has stood the test of time. Barley is also supplied to beer breweries, provided the quality is deemed acceptable.
Fruit production has grown multiplefold since the 1950s, due to an increase in productivity outpacing the decline in the acreage for fruit orchards. Back in 1950, the yield from one hectare of apple trees was 6 tonnes. But in 2016, the same hectare of land would yield 43 tonnes of apples. Productivity at pear orchards increased a bit more slowly with a yield of nearly 8 tonnes per hectare in 1950s and nearly 40 tonnes by 2015.
The raised productivity is mainly the result of more mineral fertilisers and pesticides. In addition, improved plant breeding techniques, exchange of knowledge among growers and business innovations have contributed significantly.