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Country report - Netherlands

by Marian Blom, Bionext.

This article was originally written for the publication "Organic in Europe", published by the IFOAM EU Group in collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Switzerland, and the Mediterranean Institute for Agronomic Research CIHEAM-IAM, Bari, Italy. 

Key indicators 2012

  • Organic agricultural area: 48,038 hectares
  • Operators:
    • Organic producers: 1,600
    • Organic processors: 1,700
    • Organic importers: no data
    • Organic exporters: no data
  • Retail sales: EUR 934.3 million

Area indicator data: Eurostat; operators: SKAL; market data: Bionext; retail sales includes general and specialised retailers and catering/restaurants. However, not all channels are included. With direct sales included, the figure would be over EUR 1 billion in 2012.

The retail-sales figure includes general and specialised retailers and catering/restaurants. However, not all channels are included. With direct sales included, the figure would be over EUR 1 billion in 2012.

History of organic farming

  • 1947: The Warmonderhof establishes the first bio-dynamic agricultural school; it still offers training in organic agriculture today
  • 1970s: The organic sector grows slowly: in 1972 there are 85 organic farms in the Netherlands, rising to 359 by the end of the 1980s
  • 1992: Platform Biologica is founded as a new organisation for the entire sector (today renamed as Bionext)
  • 2001 to 2004: First action plan implemented – Policy document on organic agriculture
  • 2008 to 2011: Third action plan implemented – Policy document on organic agriculture
  • 2008-2011 – Organic connections, perspectives for growth

Key sector institutions

  • Biohuis, organic farmers’ network: www.biohuis.org
  • Bionext, umbrella organisation and information portal for the organic sector: www.bionext.nl
  • Biowinkelvereniging, the organic shop foundation
  • DLV – advisory services with an organic branch
  • Biokennis, archive for organic food and farming research: www.biokennis.nl
  • Louis Bolk Institute: research and international cooperation
  • Skal, the inspection and certification body for organic production in the Netherlands: www.skal.nl
  • VPB, Dutch trading and processing association: www.vbpbiologisch.nl
  • Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR): www.wur.nl

Production base: land use and key crops

Of the total area of 48,038 hectares

  • 58.9 % consists of permanent grassland and grazing areas,
  • 38.8 % arable land,
  • 1 % permanent crops and
  • 1.3 % other agricultural land.

The key arable crops are

  • green fodder from arable land (7,966 hectares),
  • vegetables (4,931 hectares) and
  • cereals (4,075 hectares).

The key permanent crops are

  • apples (255 hectares),
  • pears (92 hectares) and
  • berries (69 hectares).


Over the past ten years, the organic market has experienced sustained growth.

  • Top-selling products: Milk and dairy products (EUR 218 million; 4.8 % of all milk and dairy products sold), fresh vegetables and potatoes (EUR 129.7 million; 3.9% of all fresh vegetables and potatoes sold), meat and meat products (EUR 127.6 million; 2.7 % of all meat and meat products sold), and bread and bakery products (EUR 79.4 million; 3.2% of all bread and bakery products sold).
  • Market channels: General retailers (52.8 %), specialised/organic retailers (31.9 %) and catering (15.3 %)
  • Exports and imports: In 2012, based on interviews with a number of major exporters, the value of exports was estimated at EUR 783 million. As one of Europe’s major ports is located in the Netherlands, large quantities of goods are imported and re-exported to other European countries.

Standards, legislation, organic logo

EU legislation on organic farming and other regulations apply in the Netherlands.
Organic producers can use the EKO logo on Dutch products. The EKO programme is to be developed further in the coming years. Since 2010, the private EKO label has also included a scheme for shops and restaurants.

Policy support

  • National action plan: There is no separate policy or action plan for organic agriculture. The Dutch Government has general policies for stimulating rural development and sustainable agricultural production from which organic producers can benefit.
  • Support under the EU rural development programme: Dutch organic farmers receive support under the EU’s Rural Development Programme.
  • Other policy support: While there is no policy or action plan at the national level, some provinces, such as Noord-Holland, do have policies to stimulate conversion to organic farming.

Research & advice

Farmers wishing to convert to organic farming can access support to avail themselves of technical advice and training from private consultancies. The Ministry of Economic Affairs provides up to a maximum of 60 % of the funding for research into organic food and farming. The rest is paid for by the sector. Research is carried out by the various institutes of Wageningen University and Research Centre, and the Louis Bolk Institute.

Challenges & outlook

The challenge for the coming years is to increase the area under production and to guarantee the organic quality of the products being traded.

Further information

For other relevant websites, see the section on key sector institutions.


Marian Blom
Laan van Vollenhove 3221
3706 AR Zeist

Tel.: +313 0 233 9970


Organic in Europe 2014

  • Organic in Europe 2014 - Prospects and Developments
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