The export of organic products by Dutch companies increased by an impressive 9% in 2013 and 15% in total trade; according to a survey by The Netherland’s organic industry representative group Bionext. A global player, the country’s organic exports are mainly cereals, fruit, arable and vegetable crops, horticulture, dairy, pork and eggs.

The export value has risen from 783 million euros in 2013 to 852 million euros. Along with the domestic consumption of more than EUR1 billion, the total economic value of the organic sector is EUR1.9 billion. Export of organic agricultural products and food takes place mainly to neighbouring countries: Germany, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

For this study Bionext interviewed over fifty leading Dutch organic export companies. The results are supplemented with data from the primary production sectors.

“Dutch export-oriented companies are growing with the global demand for organic products. The Netherlands not only exports products of its own making, but is also strong as an organic trade country with 15% growth, Bionext said.

“The demand for organic products is growing strongly worldwide. In the past 11 years, sales almost tripled to $64 billion (over 50 billion) in 2011. The expectation of experts is that tin 2015 the market will reach $104.5 billion. About 85% of the global organic sales are generated in the EU and the US, especially by increased consumer awareness.

According to Bionext, domestic consumption and exports grow roughly three times faster than the growth of the organic acreage in the Netherlands. This means that the Dutch agricultural opportunities are being left behind.

Bionext said that the government could stimulate the conversion, including the grounds of the national institutions and provinces to switch to organic management with a reduced lease rate for sustainable, organic farms. Provincial authorities have committed to the growth of the organic acreage in their territory, by setting up this stimulus.

The recent import restrictions from Russia have a limited direct impact on the organic business. The fear of the indirect effects are much larger: price fall especially conventional vegetables by oversupply leads to increase of the price difference with organic vegetables and thus the risk of reduction of sales in the Netherlands.

Bio sustainable raw materials spectacular rise

The total turnover of organic sustainable raw materials and semi-finished products in 2013 experienced a spectacular increase from EUR195.5 million to over EUR239 million. Of these, approximately 95% are products from other countries imported and exported again, mainly via Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe and the third largest in the world.

“Netherlands has a number of highly developed joined companies in organic raw materials, which are active worldwide. In addition, there are companies that have specialized in some specific raw materials and processing them into half manufactures,” Bionext said.

Commodity import and export benefited most from the growing demand for organic products in the surrounding countries of Germany, Belgium, France, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.

There are also brand companies that have fully or partially specialized in biological branded and /or private label production. The export position in private label and own brand products is based on the available data at EUR79.6 million, a growth of over 7% compared 2012.

Domestic organic sales grow 5%+ to EUR1.058bn

The Netherlands is home to a number of natural and organic specialised stores such as EkoPlaza, Estafette, and Marqt, while conventional supermarkets with some organics include Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Aldi and Lidl.

Turnover by sales channel in 2013 was 1.058 billion euros, including supermarkets (516 million), out-of-home (144 million), specialist shops (325 million) and other markets (74 million).

Consumer spending on organic food in 2013 was 50 million more than in 2012, a growth of 5.4%, Bionext said. Although growth is levelling, Bionext found that the recession last year has hardly affected the sales of organic goods.

Food categories with highest sales are organic pasta (+ 28.8%), organic cheese (+ 25.5%)  and other dairy products(+ 27.1%), organic eggs (+ 24.4%) and organic canned / frozen foods (+ 19.8%).

The market share climbed to 12.7% for organic eggs: now 1 in 8 eggs purchased by consumers are organic. Consumers again spent more money in organic fruits and vegetables: revenues increased by 10.5% and 9.2% respectively. The consumption of organic meat has stabilized (+ 0.8%) and the consumption of organic milk shows a slight decrease (-4%). This development reflects the slight decline in total meat and milk consumption in the country.

Bavo van den Idsert, director at Bionext said: “Last year the organic supermarkets and shops revamped significantly and outperformed mainstream supermarkets: they often saw their sales grow by 10% to 20%. They clearly meet a need.”

Growth was less than in recent years in the out-of-home sector. Van den Idsert said it would help caterers and care providers to servicing the Dutch government. In France the government has increased organic catering with great success. There is the goal of 20% “bio” in canteens by the end of 2017.”

The total consumer spending on non- perishable food rose from EUR2.22 billion in 2013 to EUR2.46 billion, reports the Monitor Sustainable Food of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, an increase of 10.8%.

This market share of sustainable food has grown from 5.5% to 6.1%. Organic food accounted for almost half of total revenue (40.1%). Sustainable food means products that differ in one or more sustainability aspects of what the law requires, such as animal welfare, fair trade or environmental friendliness. Total food expenditures declined in 2013 by 0.4% compared to the previous year.

In compiling data, the Monitor Sustainable Food looked at the main distribution channels for which data were available: supermarkets (except discounters), out of home and specialty shops. These jointly account for about 85% of sales of organic food.