Statistics Explained

Archive:Farm structure in the Netherlands - 2007 results

Data from July 2008. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
Figure 1: Distribution of the utilised agricultural area in the Netherlands, 2005 and 2007
Figure 2: Description of the labour force in the Netherlands, 2007
Figure 3: Distribution of the number of livestock units, Netherlands, 2005 and 2007
Table 1: Labour force by size of the farms, Netherlands, 2007 Eurostat (ef_ov_lfft)
Table 2: Agricultural holdings by size, Netherlands, 2007 Eurostat (ef_ov_kvaaesu)
Table 3: Land use by size of the farms, Netherlands, 2007 Eurostat (ef_ov_lusum)
Table 4: Livestock by size of the farm, Netherlands, 2007 Eurostat (ef_ov_lssum)
Figure 4: Total ESU per Economic Size Classes

This article is part of a series of country-specific essays on the results of the European Union (EU) Farm structure survey (FSS) 2007. It provides a brief but nevertheless comprehensive insight into farm structure in the Netherlands.

The 2007 FSS recorded 76 700 agricultural holdings in the Netherlands, which represents a 6 % decrease since 2005. This drop is accompagnied by a decrease in the utilised agricultural area (UAA) by 2 %. There is a decline in the number of small farms together with an increase in the number of large ones.

Main statistical findings

58% of Dutch farms are under 20ha

In 2007, about 76 700 agricultural holdings in the Netherlands had an economic size of at least one European size unit (ESU), compared to 81 800 in 2005.

These farms made use of 1.91 million hectares (ha) of utilised agricultural area, (2 % less than in 2005), which makes the average size of a holding in the Netherlands 25 ha (compared with 24 ha in 2005). See Figure 1 for the distribution of UAA in terms of farm size, while Table 2 describes the size distribution and other characteristics of the agricultural holdings.

These holdings employed 165 100 annual work units (AWUs), the equivalent of 165 100 people working full time, a decrease of 5 % since 2005. The average area per AWU is 12.7 ha (more 0.5 ha than in 2005).The organisation and distribution of the labour force in the Netherlands is described in Figure 2 and Table 1.

The farms contained 6.4 million livestock units (LSU) in 2007, 0.4 % more than in 2005. The average number of livestock units per holding rose from 78 to 84 in the Netherlands.The distribution of livestock by farm size is shown in Table 4 and Figure 3.

Amongst the 76 700 agricultural holdings in 2007:

  • 24 % made use of less than one AWU, while another 34 % made use of two or more AWUs;
  • 14 % used less than 2 ha, while 15 % used 50 ha or more;
  • 59 % of the Dutch farms specialised in livestock;
  • 25 % were specialists in dairy farming;
  • 23 % specialised in sheep, goats and other grazing livestock;
  • 13 % were engaged in general field cropping.

Amongst the sole holders:

  • 5 % were women in 2007 (less 2 % than in 2005);
  • 44 % were aged 55 or more and 4 % were younger than 35 years; and
  • 27 % had another gainful activity in 2007 compared with 24 % in 2005).

In the Netherlands in 2007, 59 % of the agricultural area was farmed by its owners.

The family labour force has decreased by 8 % from 2005 to 2007.

The irrigated area increased 117 % from 2005 to 2007. The percentage of irrigated land is in 2007 10.6 % of the UAA, compared to 5.8 % in 2005. The number of farms that used irrigation on their crops at least once a year also doubled, and represent 19% of the total number of agricultural holdings (compared with 11 % in the 2005 survey). Details of land use by size of farm are given in Table 3.

The total SGM for the Netherlands in 2007 was 8.5 million ESU.

The total ESU per economic size classes in the Netherlands is outlined in Figure 4.

Data sources and availability

Due to the different coverage of the FSS across Member States, the total number of farms is not comparable between countries. This is why the present analysis, including Tables 1-4 and the graphs focus on holdings of at least one European size unit.

The survey on the structure of agricultural holdings in the Netherlands was carried out by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in spring 2007 using an exhaustive survey. Since 1934 full-scale agricultural censuses have been conducted on an annual basis. The reference date of the FSS 2007 was 1 April 2007 for livestock and 15 May for crops. For labour force the reference period was the proceeding year, ending on 1 April 2007.

The target population was all the farms registered in the National Farm Register, which is updated continuously and in 2007 counted 91°000 holdings. The register is kept by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and is obligatory for all holdings engaged in agricultural activities. For the census all holdings above 3 NGE (Nederlandse Grootte Eenheid) are selected (about 77 000 farms in 2007 that represent 99% of the standard gross margin). The NGE is the Dutch equivalent of the European size unit, but due to the differences in inflation levels 1 NGE is 1420 euros in the year concerned.

For certain characteristics (e.g. environmental aspects, less-favoured and set-aside areas) administrative sources and the Geographic Information System (GIS) have been used.

The survey was mailed to the units with the possibility of being sent back by normal mail or using an internet application. About 20% of the holdings used the internet application.

Non-response in the Dutch 2007 FSS was 4% of the farms. Estimation using the next-neighbour imputation was done for the non-response.

Between FSS 2005 and 2007 "maintaining land in good agricultural and environmental conditions" (GAEC) became an agricultural activity and the concerned land has been included in the agricultural area. In the Netherlands it covers close to 2 500 ha.

For each activity (`enterprise`) on a farm (for instance wheat, dairy cow or vineyard), a standard gross margin (SGM) is estimated, based on the area (or the number of heads) and a regional coefficient. The sum of such margins in a farm is its economic size, expressed in European size units (ESU, 1 ESU is a 1200-euro SGM).

An annual work unit (AWU) is equivalent to a worker employed on a full-time basis for one year. In the Netherlands it is 1800 hours (225 working days of 8 working hours per day).


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

As agriculture has modernised and the importance of industry and services within the economy has increased, so 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, the diversification of the rural economy to create alternative jobs and environmental protection in rural areas.

The FSS continues to adapt 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

Ad-hoc tables: Farm Structure Survey

Methodology / Metadata

External links