Last year the Netherlands was the UK’s biggest source of imported food and drink

Weeks of protests by farmers in the Netherlands have so far not hindered Dutch food exports to the UK, representatives of the meat and fruit & veg sectors have said.

Nigel Jenney, CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium, which sources fruit & veg from abroad, said there had been “no disruption to supplies”.

His assessment was echoed by a spokeswoman for the British Meat Processors’ Association, who said “BMPA members aren’t seeing any disruption to imports coming from the Netherlands as a result of the farmer protests”.

Last year the Netherlands was the UK’s biggest source of imported food and drink, measured by country, with official data collated by the Food & Drink Federation showing £4.3bn worth of Dutch food and drink entering the UK, slightly more than the £4.1bn worth of food and drink sourced from France.

Pork, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are among the chief Dutch food exports to the UK.

The protests began last month after the Dutch government proposed a 50% cut to nitrogen output in agriculture by 2030 as part of national and EU-led net zero efforts, which, if implemented, could see livestock numbers in Europe’s biggest meat exporter reduced by 30%.

Farmers said the measures would force many of them out of business at a time of already-surging food commodity price inflation and soaring input costs, such as fuel and fertiliser, which have affected farmers the world over.

In the UK, so-called ‘agflation’ was by April estimated to be three times higher than even the four-decade-high consumer price inflation confirmed the month before by the government.

A spokeswoman for LTO Nederland, the country’s main farmers’ organisation, said the Dutch government’s proposals were “simply unfeasible” and would “have disastrous effects on not just agriculture, but on the economic, social and cultural viability of rural Netherlands”.

The government had put “too much focus on reduction of livestock in [the Netherlands] and expropriation of farmers, instead of looking at opportunities [for] innovation and sustainable production”, the LTO spokeswoman said.

The government earlier criticised the protesting farmers for blocking roads and setting bales of hay alight in towns, disruptions Dutch officials said were contributing to rising prices and tight supply in supermarkets.

Dutch police were lambasted for firing live ammunition at protestors the week before last – with the police in turn saying the shots were fired as farmers were threatening to drive their tractors through roadblocks. 

The National Farmers Union and Copa-Cogeca, the pan-European farmers’ and co-operatives’ group, declined to comment on the protests.

“In terms of the farmers protests I sympathise with their position,” said the FPC’s Jenney, ”Whilst it’s important we consider agreed action to mitigate climate change we also need to be able to produce food effectively at an affordable price for consumers,” he said

The BMPA said the spread of African swine fever to the German-Dutch border was a bigger concern for the UK food industry than the protests.

“If ASF jumps the border [into the Netherlands] from Germany, it would have a big impact. We’d have to turn to Denmark and other regions of Germany to replace it but it would most likely be at a higher cost,” the BMPA spokeswoman said.