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An overview of insights on the (un)sustainability of the international food system.

Food & Sustainability

What does the Dutch food system look like?

Dutch food products have usually gone through a complex food chain, both within the Netherlands itself as well as in countries abroad.

Food chain parties

The part of the food chain located in the Netherlands starts with the 65,000 farmers that produce food. The first link of this chain is formed by natural inputs such as water, energy, nutrients and animal feed. These include greenhouse growers, crop farmers and livestock farmers, but also food producers, breeders and raisers who supply feed and farm animals. 6500 food processors turn these outputs into semi-finished products, ingredients and consumer products. These are then sold to 1550 transporters, which in turn sell the products to 5 wholesale firms. These sell the products to 25 retail brands, after which they are distributed through 4850 supermarkets. From there, products eventually reach 7 million households, consisting of 17 million consumers. Consumers also obtain food through other channels, such as farm sales or restaurants.

PBL (2012b), p. 22-23.

Trading partner

Netherlands is an important trading partner. Firstly, many of the inputs to farming and processing, such as soy, are imported. Netherlands has a share of 7.5% in global agricultural export, second only to the United States’. Half of exports consist of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products, mainly intended for neighboring European countries like Germany, Belgium, the UK and France. Besides agriculture and horticulture the Dutch processing industry also supplies a large share of the exports. Furthermore, Dutch ports like Rotterdam play an important role as transit route for products such as potatoes, soy and cocoa towards the European hinterland.

Bosatlas van het Voedsel (2014), p. 36-37.