Dutch agricultural exports reached record levels in 2015, according to the Netherlands national statistics office, CBS.
The bulk of these exports comprised produce worth €81,3 billion (R1,4 trillion). Adding machinery, fertilisers and other farming inputs pushed the total value of agricultural exports to €90 billion (R1,6 trillion).
The Netherlands is now the second-largest agricultural exporter in the world after the US. Germany is ranked third, followed by Brazil and France.
According to CBS, flowers and plants accounted for €8,3 billion (R143,5 billion), meat exports €7,6 billion (R131 billion), dairy exports €7,2 billion (R125 billion), and vegetables €6,3 billion (R109 billion).
Dr Johnny van der Merwe, agricultural economist at North-West University, said that Dutch farmers had two crucial advantages over SA producers. The first was government support through subsidies.
“[This] lowers their production costs and increases their ability to compete with the rest of the world,” he said.
The other factor was the abundance of water in that country, which increased their competitiveness in high-value crops. This advantage would become even more important in the future, as fresh water sources declined globally.
“My recommendation to SA farmers, especially those who produce higher value commodities that are more reliant on water, is to invest in water infrastructure,” he said.