Added value is boosting Dutch export efforts when it comes to fresh produce, with items such as on-the-vine tomatoes popular with UK retailers.
The Netherlands accounts for more than a third of the total European export of fresh vegetables. It exports 540 million kilograms of tomatoes, of which 333 million kilograms are tomatoes on-the-vine. The UK is one of the main markets for Dutch tomatoes.
However, like the rest of the Europe, Dutch fresh vegetable growers are faced with a slowly declining market.
Jens van der Vorm, general secretary of the Holland Fresh Group, says: “For many years all over Europe we have seen a declining share of fresh fruit and vegetables.”
Dutch producers have kept ahead of the game, thanks to innovation and intensive cultivation methods including an unparallelled density of greenhouse cultivation.
According to the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, glasshouse horticulture is the most important horticultural sector in The Netherlands. It estimates that between 75% and 80% of Dutch glasshouse products are exported, with about 62,000 people working in the sector.
Peppers have recently overtaken tomatoes to gain the number one spot. More than 85% of Dutch peppers go abroad, with 17% snapped up by buyers in the UK.
But tomatoes are still vital, with 90% of the crop exported. In recent years growers have concentrated on innovation, with the creation of new varieties with added flavour.
These have played an important role in satisfying the needs of overseas customers, according to distribution, sales and marketing company The Greenery, one of Europe’s leading players in the sector.
The company, owned by the horticultural co-operative VoedingsTuinbouw Nederland (VTN), exports to more than 60 countries with produce from VTN’s 2,500 member companies. Produce such as mini plum, on-the-vine and cherry tomatoes, as well as peppers, have been key in sustaining export.
Another major crop for both The Greenery and the market as a whole is mushrooms. The Netherlands is the world’s third-largest exporter and is in a prime position to benefit from UK retailers’ interest in this versatile product.
Asda is just one supermarket currently running a campaign to encourage purchase. Meanwhile, the Dutch have joined Irish and UK producers to explore a E6m generic campaign for 2006 and 2007, partly funded by growers and partly through EU finance.
Other leading Dutch crops include lettuce, cucumber, cauliflower, radishes, fennel, aubergines, gherkins, chicory and courgettes.