Growth in organic livestock farming

In 2018, the size of the organic farming sector in the Netherlands increased again slightly. The organic livestock herd rose by 10 percent while the total organic area was 3 percent larger than in the previous year. In 2017, the country with relatively the largest organic area within Europe was Austria. This is evident from new figures over 2018 on organic farming, as published by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

Organic farming (x 1,000 ha)
CategoriesGrasslands and green fodderArable farmingHorticulture
201236.2610.112.06
201336.3610.842.19
201436.6210.262.38
201537.4610.312.61
201639.110.482.83
201742.4310.873.08
201843.1511.723.17

In 2018, the total organic area in the Netherlands amounted to more than 58 thousand hectares. This is equivalent to 3.3 percent of the country’s total agricultural area. Most of this organic area is grassland which is used for dairy farming, among other activities. This area increased by 0.8 percent in the span of twelve months and by 19 percent in the span of six years to over 40 thousand hectares. Last year, the organic horticultural area grew by more than half relative to 2012.

Livestock populations at organic farms (Index 2012 = 100)
 Bovines, totalMature dairy cattleSheepGoatsPigsChickens
2012100100100100100100
201310510795117105101
201410410873113114109
201511511665123115125
201613614766139122138
201715217170170151150
201814917368210160165

Rise in organic livestock herd mainly in goats

In 2018, the organic livestock herd increased by 10 percent to over 3.9 million animals. Of the total Dutch livestock herd in the Netherlands last year, 3.4 percent was organically reared; in 2017, this share still amounted to 2.9 percent. The organic goat population rose in particular last year: by one-quarter to a total of 55 thousand animals. At the same time, the number of organic pigs rose to 97 thousand, an increase of 6 percent. The population of organically-reared laying hens went up by 11 percent to 3.6 million. In 2017, there were still 3.2 million organic laying hens. The organic dairy herd remained at more or less the same level.

Relative to 2012, the number of organic goats in particular increased: by more than double in the span of six years. The sheep population decreased by one-third over the same period.

Organic crop area increased by 8 percent

In 2018, 0.7 percent of the total Dutch agricultural area was occupied by organic crop farming. In total, this involved an area of 11.7 thousand hectares, 8 percent more than one year previously. The larger part of the organic crop area is devoted to vegetable production (46 percent), followed by production of cereals (30 percent) and potatoes (14 percent). The largest growth in the span of twelve months was in fallow land area.

Total organic area (%)
 Total organic area
Austria23.37
Estonia19.60
Sweden19.16
Italy14.86
Czech Republic14.09
Latvia13.92
Finland11.38
Slovakia9.90
Slovenia9.60
Spain8.73
Denmark8.60
Lithuania7.98
Greece7.96
Portugal7.04
Germany6.82
Croatia6.46
Belgium6.28
France5.99
Cyprus4.57
Luxembourg4.15
Hungary3.73
Poland3.41
Netherlands3.14
United Kingdom2.87
Bulgaria2.72
Romania1.93
Ireland1.66
Malta0.35

Dutch organic vegetable and potato cultivation exceeds EU average

In 2017, on average 7.0 percent of the total utilised agricultural area (UUA) in the EU-28 was under organic farming; in the Netherlands this was 3.1 percent. The front runner in the EU-28 is Austria, where nearly one-quarter of the total area is organically farmed. In 2017, around 56 percent of the total organic area in the Netherlands was used as permanent grassland. At 44 percent, the share was lower in the EU-28.

On average, 3.8 percent of all dairy cows in the EU-28 were organically reared in 2017. This share was 1.9 percent in the Netherlands. Austria leads here as well, with more than 1 in 5 Austrian dairy cows organically reared.

The Netherlands is at the European forefront in terms of organic potato and vegetable production. Thirteen percent of the organic crop area is used for vegetables and 2.9 percent for potatoes; the respective shares are lower at 1.1 and 0.2 percent in the EU-28. The shares of cereals (6.1 percent) and permanent crops (1.1 percent) are below the EU average.

Organic crops, 2017 (%)
 Permanent grasslandOtherFresh vegetablesCereals and ricePotatoesPermanent crops
Netherlands562013631
European Union4430113011