Half of Dutch production of greenhouse vegetables goes to Germany and the UK

Greenhouse vegetables are good for nearly half the total export of all fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the Netherlands. Onions are the most important product regarding quantity, but the major greenhouse products, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers, are next.

Regarding quantity, exports of the three largest greenhouse products and aubergines increased to 1.44 million tonnes until 2010. That quantity has not been achieved since then, but it’s not much less than that either. In 2017, it was 1.39 million tonnes. Bell pepper was the only product to continue growing in 2017. 

The Dutch greenhouse vegetable sector is driven by export, because 80 per cent of the production is sold abroad. The export of greenhouse vegetables is mainly focused on European countries. The US is the most important non-European buyer. In total, this country has a modest share of two per cent. Japan is the next non-European buyer. In 2017, this country came in 20th of all buyers, with a share of less than half a per cent of the total.



Germany: More and more greenhouse vegetables from German soil
The sales of Dutch greenhouse vegetables is also much dependent on the German market. In recent years, the share of Germany has always been 46 per cent. The Netherlands is also very important to the German domestic market of greenhouse vegetables. Of the total German market (production and import), the share of Dutch tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers was 42 per cent, 34 per cent and 25 per cent respectively in 2017.

The German production of particularly tomatoes is increasing rapidly. Last year, about 100,000 tonnes of tomatoes were grown. This amounted to a growth of 13 per cent compared to 2016. In 2010, the production was 75,000 tonnes. The German cucumber production fluctuates, although it was a bit larger last year compared to 2016, with nearly 60,000 tonnes. The production of bell peppers is also increasing relatively quickly in Germany, but with 12,000 tonnes it’s still quite modest.

The second buyer is the UK. In recent years, 17 to 18 per cent of all Dutch greenhouse vegetables was sent to these two countries. Combined, they are therefore good for two-thirds of the export of greenhouse vegetables. Number three on the list is Italy, with a share of about five per cent. Poland, fourth, is also good for about five per cent. Sweden follows with four per cent, and France has a share of three per cent.

Scaling up production
In the production of greenhouse vegetables in the Netherlands, the increase in importance of large(r) companies is noticeable. The number of greenhouse vegetable companies has been halved in ten years to 1,260 companies in 2017. Until 2010, the area increased to about 5,000 hectares, and that has remained fairly stable. More than 80 per cent of this area belongs to companies larger than three hectares. Ten years ago, this was still more than half. For that matter, the share of companies that grow less than 1.5 hectares of greenhouse vegetables is still more than 40 per cent.

Import mostly for re-export
Besides tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and aubergines grown in the Netherlands, these products are imported as well. This import at first decreased somewhat in recent years, but in the past year, much more has supposedly been imported again. In 2017, this concerned 460,000 tonnes in total for the four products mentioned, and half of this is tomatoes. These products are mostly meant for re-export.

Tomato export now stable after peak in 2014
Tomatoes are the most important Dutch greenhouse vegetable product. In 2014, the export of Dutch tomatoes reached its peak with more than 800,000 tonnes. It decreased every year after that, to just below 750,000 tonnes last year. This decrease wasn’t just caused by the loss of the Russian market (38,000 tonnes), but less was sent to other countries as well. This trend was mostly decided by export to Germany, but also export to the UK. With respective shares of 46 and 15 per cent, these two countries combined are good for more than 60 per cent of the total export of Dutch tomatoes. The other buyers of importance are Italy, Sweden, Poland, Spain and France. Of these countries, Poland is a growth market, and fewer and fewer Dutch tomatoes are sent to France and Sweden.

Very few Dutch tomatoes are sent to countries outside of the EU. Last year, the United Arab Emirates, which were 19th in total, were the most important non-European destination with an export of 3,500 tonnes, good for half a per cent of the total.

Besides the 750,000 tonnes of Dutch product, an additional estimated 350,000 tonnes of foreign tomatoes were re-exported by Dutch exporters last year. Of the two large countries, Germany and the UK, the share of re-export was 21 and 38 per cent respectively.

Three-quarters vine tomatoes
Nowadays, nearly three-quarters of the export of Dutch tomatoes consists of vine tomatoes. For a large part, 440,000 tonnes, this concerns regular round vine tomatoes, but with nearly 100,000 tonnes, vine cherry tomatoes also play a significant part. The export of loose round tomatoes is 175,000 tonnes now. Last year, 16,000 tonnes of loose plum tomatoes were exported.

Mainly vine tomatoes (82%) are sent to Germany, while more round tomatoes than vine tomatoes are sent to the UK.

Slight recovery in export of cucumbers last year
The export of Dutch cucumbers is decreasing somewhat over the years, but last year it was slightly more than in 2016. Last year it concerned 284,000 tonnes. In 2015, more than 340,000 tonnes were exported. The trend is completely decided by sales in Germany. More than 60 per cent of the Dutch cucumber export is meant for Germany. The UK is the only other buyer of significance. In recent years, the export to that country entered quite a slump. Besides the 285,000 tonnes of Dutch cucumbers, another 140,000 tonnes of cucumbers were re-exported last year as well.

More and more bell peppers
Bell pepper is the only grower of the major greenhouse vegetables. In 2017, 315,000 tonnes of bell peppers grown in the Netherlands could be sold abroad. In the two previous years, the limit of 300,000 tonnes was surpassed.

Germany is the most important buyer, but the share, 31 per cent, is much smaller than for other major greenhouse vegetables. In recent years, fewer bell peppers were sent to Germany than in the past.

The UK is also second for bell peppers, and has a share of nearly a quarter. In 2017, a record amount was exported to this country. The US, Poland and Sweden are the other buyers of significance.

Red to Germany and a mix to the UK
Red is the colour most exported with a share of 44 per cent in total.More colours in one packaging comes second with 28 per cent of the total. Yellow (15%), green (10%) and orange (5%) come next. Combined, the other colours represent one per cent of the total.

Germany mostly asks for red bell peppers. The combination of colours sent to the UK is quite different. Nearly half the export to the UK consists of mixed bell peppers. Green is also represented relatively strongly in the export to this country. A relatively large amount of yellow and orange bell peppers is sent to the US. The export to Poland consists of red bell peppers for nearly three-quarters.

Stable image for aubergines
The export of Dutch aubergines has been at a stable level around 40,000 tonnes for a number of years. Germany comes first with 44 per cent of the total, followed by the UK with a share of 22 per cent. Besides the 40,000 tonnes of Dutch aubergines, an additional 20,000 tonnes of foreign aubergines were re-exported.

For more information:
Jan Kees Boon
Fruit and Vegetable Facts

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