Agricultural census in the Netherlands

Data from November 2012. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Due to that the agricultural census is carried out every ten years, the next update of this article will take place in December 2022.

This article is part of a series of country-specific essays on the results of the European Union (EU) Farm structure survey (FSS) 2010. The FSS collects information on the structural characteristics of agricultural holdings (land use, livestock and labour force) and is carried out by all European Union Member States every 10 years as an Agricultural census, with two or three additional, intermediate sample surveys carried out in-between. Although in the Netherlands an Agricultural census is carried out (almost) every year, the present analysis of the farm structure includes a comparison with the Agricultural census 2000 in order to compare the data at EU level. In the Netherlands, the reference years for the above mentioned Agricultural censuses were 1999 and 2010 respectively; nonetheless, the common designation is Agricultural census 2000 and 2010. 

Table 1: Farm structure, key indicators, the Netherlands, 2000 and 2010
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg) (ef_ov_kvaa) (demo_pjan) and FSS 2000 and 2010
Table 2: Farm structure, key indicators, by NUTS 2 regions, the Netherlands, 2000 and 2010
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg) (ef_ov_kvaa) and FSS 2000 and 2010
Figure 1: Number of holdings and Utilised Agriculture Area (UAA) by UAA size classes, the Netherlands, 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg) (ef_ov_kvaa)
Table 3: Economic size of the farm by standard output size classes, the Netherlands, 2007 and 2010 (EUR)
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2007 and 2010
Figure 2: Number of holdings by main type of farming, the Netherlands, 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvftreg)
Figure 3: Standard Output by main type of farming, the Netherlands, 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvftreg)
Figure 4: Utilised Agricultural Area by land use, the Netherlands, 2000 and 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat (ef_lu_ovcropaa) (ef_oluaareg)
Table 4: Utilised Agricultural Area by land use, the Netherlands, 2000 and 2010
Special value: "-" not applicable
Source: Eurostat (ef_lu_ovcropaa) (ef_oluaareg)
Figure 5: Livestock by main types, the Netherlands, 2000 and 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010
Table 5: Number of holdings with livestock by LSU size class, the Netherlands, 2000 and 2010
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010
Table 6: Agricultural labour force, the Netherlands, 2000 and 2010
Special values: ":" not available "-" not applicable
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010
Figure 6: Sole holders by gender, the Netherlands, 2000 and 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010
Table 7: Utilised agricultural area by type of tenure, by NUTS 2 regions, the Netherlands, 2010
Source: Eurostat (ef_mptenure) (ef_so_mptenure)
Figure 7: Irrigated area by type of crops, the Netherlands, 2010 (%)
Source: Source: Eurostat (ef_poirrig)
Table 8: Key figures on irrigation, the Netherlands, 2010
Source: Eurostat FSS 2010
Table 9: Number of holdings with cattle and places by type of animal housing, the Netherlands, 2010
Source: Source: Eurostat (ef_pmhouscatlaa)
Table 10: Number of holdings by other gainful activities, by NUTS 2 regions, the Netherlands 2010
Source: Eurostat FSS 2010
Table 11: Organic farming, number of holdings with organic UAA and utilised agricultural area, the Netherlands, 2010
Special value: "-" not available
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010

Main statistical findings

Key indicators 

As shown in Table 1, there were 72 320 agricultural holdings in the Netherlands in 2010. Compared with 2000, the number of agricultural holdings has significantly decreased (-28.8 %), as was the case in most other EU Member States.

At 1.9 million hectares, the utilised agricultural area (UAA) represented 45 % of Dutch territory in 2010 – one of the highest shares recorded within the EU-27. As the UAA fell (-7.7 %) much less than the number of holdings over 2000-2010, the average size of farms increased from 20 ha in 2000 to 26 ha in 2010. In addition, animal livestock expressed in livestock units (LSU) recorded a drop of 9 % within the period under analysis; there were 6.7 million LSU registered in the Netherlands in 2010, compared with 7.3 million LSU in 2000. Nonetheless, the Dutch animal livestock still remained one of the largest within the EU-27.

Similarly to most EU Member States, the number of persons working in agriculture in the Netherlands dropped, from 275 730 to 211 630 between 2000 and 2010 (-23 %). Accordingly, the population working in agriculture represented a mere 2.4 % of the Dutch economically active population in 2010[1].

Over 2000-2010, the Dutch population grew while the UAA decreased. As a result, the average UAA per inhabitant dropped, from 0.13 hectares per inhabitant in 2000 to 0.11 hectares in 2010.

Regional key indicators

On close inspection, the regional analysis (see Table 2) of Dutch agriculture over the 2000-2010 period shows negative trends for nearly all regions across nearly all the key indicators, the only exception being the average area per holding. Nonetheless, the relative weights of the regions do not appear to have changed significantly; the territories of Gelderland and Noord-Brabant remained the most important for Dutch agriculture over the decade.

In particular, the region of Gelderland recorded a fall of 29.9 % in the number of holdings, although it still accounted for 17.1 % of the total number of farms in 2010. This was the second highest share after Noord-Brabant (17.8 %), which also recorded a substantial decrease (-28.2 %) compared with 2000.

In terms of the UAA, the Noord-Brabant region also recorded the highest relative share (13.4 %) of the Dutch total in 2010, despite registering a decrease of 8.3 % compared with 2000. Similarly, the region of Gelderland registered the second highest relative share (12.7 %) in 2010, despite a 6.3 % fall since 2000.

A very similar picture emerges from the analysis of livestock units. Regardless of a fall of 10.1 % compared with FSS 2000, the territory of Noord-Brabant remained by far the most important, accounting for 28.2 % of the LSU of the whole country (about 1.9 million) in 2010. The region of Gelderland was the second most important with 19.4 % of the Dutch LSU, despite suffering a drop of 12.5 % LSU compared with 2000.

The regions of Noord-Brabant, Gelderland and Zuid-Holland, all of which recorded more than 30 000 persons working on farms in 2010, had the largest agricultural workforces. Nevertheless, they all registered decreases compared to 2000 : -31 % for Zuid-Holland, -22.9 % for Gelderland and -22.7 % for Noord-Brabant.

Agricultural holdings

Between 2000 and 2010, the Netherlands followed the general trend towards fewer and larger holdings in the EU. Accordingly, agricultural holdings with 50 to 99 hectares of land increased in number (+27.7 %), as did those with 100 hectares or more (+ 85.7 %). On the other hand, all the other classes of farms recorded significant drops, with the highest decrease registered among farms with less than 2 hectares of agricultural land (-45.3 %). The only exception was farms with no agricultural land - mainly industrial livestock farms - which increased in number (+14.1 %) compared with the FSS 2000.

Currently, about half of the Dutch UAA belongs to a small number of farms (see Figure 1) with 50 or more hectares of agricultural land, which account for 16 % of the total number of farms. In terms of the number of holdings, farms seem to be evenly distributed over the various classes, with the only exception being farms with no land – 2 % of the total number of holdings – and those with 100 or more hectares of UAA (3 % of the total population of farms).

In 2010, the largest farms were located mostly in the Groningen region, with the highest average area per holding (48.3 hectares). At 47.3 hectares, Flevoland recorded the second highest figure, well above the Dutch average (25.9 ha). On the other hand, Zuid-Holland registered the lowest value (18.5 ha), followed by the region of Gelderland (19.3 ha).

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2000

Economic size of the farm

In 2010, the economic size of all Dutch agricultural holdings was EUR 18 930 million (see Table 3), one of the highest values recorded within the EU-27. This value was calculated by summing up all the standard outputs (SO) per hectare of crop and per head of livestock of the farms, and represents a 4.8 % increase compared with the FSS 2007 (EUR 18 071 million).

Accounting for 20.3 % of the Dutch agricultural standard output, the Noord-Brabant region was the most significant in 2010. The second highest contribution came from Zuid-Holland (17.8 %), while the territory of Utrecht accounted for the smallest share (2.7 %). In 2007 the hierarchy looked very much the same: the Noord-Brabant region accounted for the highest share (19.6 %), the territory of Zuid-Holland recorded the second highest value (19 %) and the territory of Utrecht accounted for the smallest share (2.7 %) of the total SO of the Netherlands.  

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

Agricultural holding by main type of farming

In terms of the main area of production, holdings specialised in dairying were the most common in the Netherlands (see Figure 2). According to the Agricultural census 2010, they represented about 24 % of the total number of holdings. The second most common type of production was sheep, goats and other grazing livestock, which accounted for 16 %. Farms specialised in general field cropping accounted for another 14 %, and those dedicated to cattle-rearing and fattening 12 %.

If the economic size is taken into account, the hierarchy of the holdings changes. Looking at the distribution of the standard output (SO) across farm types, holdings specialised in indoor horticulture had the largest share (25.8 %). Most of these holdings were located in the Zuid-Holland territory; in 2010 the production of indoor horticulture in this region accounted for 13.9 % of the total SO of the Netherlands. The second highest contribution came from holdings dedicated to dairying (23.9 %), while holdings dedicated to specialist pig farming accounted for 11.8 %. Farms specialising in other horticulture accounted for 6.5 % of the total standard output, and those specialising in general field cropping for 6.2 %.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

Land use 

The utilised agricultural area (UAA) is the total area taken up by arable land, permanent grassland and meadow, permanent crops and kitchen gardens used by the holding, regardless of the type of tenure or of whether it is used as a part of common land.

In the Netherlands, the UAA decreased by about 155 000 hectares over the decade 2000-2010 (-7.7 %), resulting in a total area of 1.9 million hectares in 2010.

There were some shifts in the relative importance of the UAA's main components. Arable land remained by far the most important element, as its share in the UAA increased from 49.8 % in 2000 to 54.6 % in 2010. An opposite trend was recorded for permanent grassland and meadows, falling from 48.6 % in 2000 to 43.4 % in 2010. Arable land and permanent grassland and meadow together accounted for 98 % of the total UAA of the Netherlands in 2010, the same as in 2000. The remaining 2 % was covered by permanent crops; kitchen gardens were not significant in the Netherlands, and hence were not surveyed.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2000

Arable land

In the Netherlands, land worked (ploughed or tilled) regularly, generally under a system of crop rotation, decreased by 7.7 % (see Table 4) over the decade 2000-2010. Nevertheless, in terms of land use, the production of cereals (+18.8 %) and fodder crops (+27.6 %) grew, increasing their importance in arable land. In contrast, the cultivation of potatoes dropped by 12 %, though it remained the third most important type of production within arable land. The area of fallow land also decreased (-19 200 hectares, i.e. -72.5%), mostly due to changes in regulations and subsidies that occurred in 2008.[2]  

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2000

Permanent grassland

The area of permanent grassland and meadows decreased by 17.4 % compared with the FSS 2000, from 984 680 ha in 2000 (48.6 % of the Dutch UAA) to 813 310 hectares in 2010. This fall was mostly the result of a decrease in the area dedicated to pasture and meadow (-17 %), as the land dedicated to rough gazing accounted for only a minor share: 44 570 hectares, or 2.4% of the UAA, in 2010.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2000


Statistics on livestock use two different units of measurement: the number of head (number of animals) and livestock units (LSU), the latter allowing comparison across species by converting the headcount using coefficients based on feeding requirements. 1 LSU is the equivalent of a dairy cow.

According to the FSS 2010, there were 0.4 LSU per inhabitant in the Netherlands, compared with 0.5 in 2000, since in the decade under analysis the Dutch population grew, while the population of livestock decreased by 8.7 %. This fall was mainly the result of a drop in LSU for cattle (-7.7 %) and pigs (-14.3 %); these two types of livestock accounted for 79 % of the total livestock of the country in 2010 compared with 81 % in 2000. Remaining fairly stable over the years, poultry recorded the third highest share (17.5 %) in terms of LSU in the Netherlands in 2010, as in 2000.

Over the 2000-2010 period, the number of agricultural holdings with livestock decreased by 27 %, from 69 320 to 50 440. While decreasing in absolute terms, the population of holdings with LSU increased relative to the total number of farms, from a 68 % share in 2000 to 70 % in 2010. Gelderland was the most significant region 2010 in terms of the number of holdings with livestock, hosting 19.6 % of Dutch farms with LSU and accounting for 1 302 130 LSU; in 2000, it hosted 1 488 280 LSU and accounted for 20.5 % of farms with livestock. On the other hand, Noord-Brabant was the most important region in terms of LSU in 2010 (1 895 230) while accounting for the second highest share of holdings with LSU (17.8 %); in 2000, it hosted over 2 million LSU and accounted for 19 % of farms with LSU.

With the exception of the biggest farms – those with 500 LSU or more – which increased by one third over the 2000-2010 decade, decreases were recorded in all the classes of farms with livestock.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010 and 2000

Labour force

In 2010, 221 630 persons were employed on agricultural holdings (see Table 6), a fall of 23.2 % compared with 2000, when 275 730 persons were working in the agriculture sector. A similar trend is observed for annual work unit (AWU); The labour force fell by 26.9 %, from 193 540 AWU in 2000 to 141 410 AWU in 2010.

Among sole holders, the gender gap appeared to be very large in 2010, as 96 % were male. The share of male sole holders recorded in 2000 was slightly lower (94 %), indicating that the gap had actually widened.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level on holders' age and gender for 2010 and 2000

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level on type of labour force for 2010 and 2000

Management practices 

Type of tenure

According to the 2010 data, in the Netherlands the majority of UAA belonged to farmers who actually worked on that land (see Table 7): 1.1 million hectares, accounting for 59 % of the Dutch UAA. The highest share was registered in Groningen, where about three out of every four hectares were recorded as farmed by the owner. On the other hand, Limburg was the only region where less than half of the UAA belonged to the farmers who actually worked on that land.

The second most common type of tenure was farming by a tenant, which accounted for 27.1 % of the Dutch UAA, or 507 020 hectares. In this case, the territory of Flevoland recorded the highest share (39 %) and Zeeland the second highest (33.3 %).

The shared-farming agricultural area, which is agricultural area utilised in partnership by the landlord and the sharecropper under a written or oral share-farming contract, or area utilised under other modes of tenure, was relatively large (264 440 hectares) and accounted for 14 % of the whole UAA, the second highest value among the survey countries. It must be kept in mind that only rent agreements registered by the Agricultural Tenancies Authority (an official government authority) were counted as tenant farming.


Between 2000 and 2010, the total irrigable area decreased slightly (-2.5 %) in the Netherlands, from 498 330 to 486 010 hectares. In 2010 it accounted for about one quarter of the Dutch UAA, while the area irrigated at least once a year covered 7.3 % of the agricultural area, or 137 310 hectares. However, when analysing data on irrigation, it should be kept in mind that the extent of the irrigated area varies over the years depending on weather conditions.

In terms of the type of crop, the largest share of irrigation water in the Netherlands was used fo temporary and permanent grass (26 %). According to the FSS 2010, other crops on arable land accounted for 30 880 ha of irrigated area, a share of 24 % of the total irrigated area of the country. With 22 390 hectares of irrigated land, the cultivation of potatoes was the third largest consumer (17 %), followed by open field cultivation of fresh vegetables, melons and strawberries (10 %).

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2000

In terms of the volume of water, 64.8 millions of cubic metres of water were used to irrigate 137 310 hectares of agricultural land in the Netherlands in 2010 – 472 cubic metres per hectare of irrigated land. The volume of water does not include water used for the area under glass, and it was calculated by combining the areas of the irrigated areas with the corresponding water levels in mm. The region of Utrecht recorded by far the highest value – 730 cubic metres of water per hectare – while Flevoland registered the lowest : 258 cubic metres per hectare.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

Animal housing

According to the FSS 2010, there were 32 830 holdings raising 3 975 190 head of cattle in the Netherlands. Taking into account the fact that more than one type of housing could be recorded for a single holding, the majority of farms (67.9 %) hosted cattle in loose housing with slurry (3 199 700 places). The second most frequent category was other (see Table 9), registered for 18 530 farms and accounting for over a million places. It must be noted that the number of places available for cattle surpassed the number of head of cattle in the Netherlands.

Other gainful activities

According to data from the Agricultural census 2010, roughly one out of four agricultural holdings (17 760) was involved in other gainful activities in the Netherlands. In relative terms, this was one of the highest percentages recorded within the EU-27. These farms recorded activities other than farm work, directly related to the holding and having an economic impact on the holding.

Information on other gainful activities was collected by eleven categories depending on their characteristics; each farm could be involved in more than one other gainful activity. The most common type of activity was contractual work (4 050 farms), which could be classified as contractual agricultural work (3 570 farms) and contractual non-agricultural work (1 250 farms). Tourism was the second most common type of other gainful activity – involving 2 830 farms and with the highest value recorded in the region of Gelderland (520 holdings).

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010 and 2000

Organic farming

Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on the minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain or enhance ecological harmony.

In the Netherlands, the agricultural area on which organic farming is practiced remained fairly stable between 2003 and 2010 (see Table 11). In 2010, 1 110 holdings were growing organic crops on a total area of 37 220 ha.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010 and 2007

Data sources and availability

Methodological notes

In the Netherlands, the Agricultural census was a joint effort of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation – especially its executive service NSIR – and Statistics Netherlands. In particular, data collection and pre-processing was done by NSIR, while processing, analysis, dissemination and data delivery to Eurostat was handled by Statistics Netherlands.

Survey on agricultural production methods (SAPM)

In 2010 a unique survey was carried out together with the agricultural census, the Survey on agricultural productions methods (SAPM). This survey collected data at regional level needed to establish agri-environmental indicators as provided in COM final 508/2006 and to evaluate the greening of the Common agricultural policy.
Data were collected according to specifications listed in Annex V of Regulation 1166/2008, namely data on tillage methods, soil conservation, landscape features, animal grazing, animal housing, manure application, manure storage and treatment facilities and irrigation.

In the Netherlands, no sampling was applied to the SAPM and the survey on other gainful activities – both were conducted exhaustively together with the FSS.

Reference period

Data were collected as of the 1st of April 2010, except for land characteristics which were recorded as of the 15th of May 2010. In addition, characteristics referring to the labour force, tillage methods, soil conservation, animal grazing, manure application and irrigation were collected with reference to the April 2009-March 2010 timeframe. Characteristics referring to support to rural development and landscape features were collected over three years: from April 2007 to March 2009.

Threshold for agricultural holdings

In order to separate professionals from hobby farmers and to minimise the processing burden, only agricultural holdings above EUR 3 000 of Standard Output were taken into account in the census. This threshold covered about 99 % of total SO, 99 % of agricultural land use and 99 % of LSU in the Netherlands. Therefore, it was found to be compliant with the European regulation 1166/2008 and allowed the census to be considered exhaustive.

Common land

As already highlighted by the previous waves of the FSS, in the Netherlands there is no common land. Therefore, this characteristic was not surveyed.   

Geo-reference of the holding

The location of the agricultural holdings was drawn by translating the postal code of the farms into latitude/longitude, which is regularly recorded in the Administrative Farm Register (AFR).

Economic size

Since the FSS 2007, the Standard output (SO), a new classification of the economic size of the holding, has been implemented. The SO has replaced the Standard gross margin (SGM) used before. Nonetheless, for comparability reasons, both classifications are available in the FSS 2007.

Volume of irrigation water

In order to estimate the volume of water for irrigation, respondents were asked to provide the average water amount (in mm) for each irrigated crop. By combining the irrigated area with the corresponding water amount, the volume of water used for irrigation was calculated for each crop: the volume of water used for crops under glass did not enter the calculation, while the category ‘other open field crops’ did.


European Commission Rural development policy aims to improve competitiveness in agriculture and forestry, the environment and the countryside, as well as to improve the quality of life in rural areas and to encourage the diversification of rural economies.

As agriculture has modernised and the importance of industry and services within the economy has increased, agriculture has become much less important as a source of jobs. Consequently, increasing emphasis is placed on the role farmers can play in rural development, including forestry, biodiversity and the diversification of the rural economy, in order to create alternative jobs and provide environmental protection in rural areas.

The FSS continues to adapt in order to provide timely and relevant data to help analyse and follow these developments.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Farm structure: historical data (1990-2007) (t_ef)


Farm structure (ef)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Other information

  • Regulation 1166/2008 of 19 November 2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods and repealing Council Regulation 571/88
  • Regulation 1200/2009 of 30 November 2009 implementing Regulation 1166/2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods, as regards livestock unit coefficients and definitions of the characteristics

External links


  1. A value calculated over the active population in the 4th quarter 2010 of the EU Labour force survey (LFS) Population, activity and inactivity - quarterly data
  2. As reported in the National Methodological Report, page 22.