Small growth for organic farming

13/12/2005 14:00

In 2004 6 percent more land in the Netherlands was used for organic farming than in 2003, bringing the total area of organically farmed land to nearly 40 thousand hectares. The number of organic farms also rose slightly, from 1,185 in 2003 to 1,201 in 2004.

Organic farming increasing against the trend

The number of agricultural businesses using organic methods of production was 1 percent higher than twelve months previously, while the total number of farms fell by 2 percent. In the previous five years the number of organic farms rose by about 10 percent a year, compared with an annual fall of nearly 4 percent within farming as a whole. This means that against the overall trend, more and more farmers are working organically; the increase is slowing down, however.

Farm heads by age
Farm heads by age

Organic farmers are younger

Heads of organic farms are younger on average than those of traditional farms. Nearly half of traditional farmers are older than 55 years, while in organic farming the majority are middle-aged. One quarter of organic farmers were younger than 40 in 1998. Today this percentage has dropped to the same level as in traditional farming:  just below 15 percent

Nearly 40 thousand hectares farmed organically

The area of organically farmed land in the Netherlands was 39.7 hectares in 2004. This is 2.3 thousand hectares more than in the previous year. In spite of this increase fewer farms have switched from traditional to organic methods since 2000. After 1999 the area in the transition period was around  5 thousand hectares, after which it fell to just over 3 thousand hectares in 2003 and to below 2 thousand in 2004.

Area of organic land
Area of organic land

Organic area doubled in six years

The total area of farmland in the Netherlands has been just under 2 million hectares for years now. The organic area in this total had doubled from 1 to 2 percent in the last six years. The Ministry for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality is aiming for 10 percent organic area in 2010.

Percentages of some crops on arable land, 2004
Percentages of some crops on arable land, 2004

Organic farmers grow different cops

More than half of the area used for organic farming - 52 percent – was grass land; 41 percent was arable land and 7 percent was used to grow horticultural crops. Although the same ratios apply to traditional farming land, the composition of organic arable crops clearly differs from that of traditional crops. Organic farmers grow less fodder maize, potatoes, winter wheat and sugar beet.

Arthur Denneman