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Country Report Januari 2005 from The Netherlands

written by Jan Paul van Hoven, committee member

 

 

Introduction

This quarterly report is meant to give you an impression of the agricultural activities in the Netherlands, the province of Zeeland in particular. Zeeland is the area where the Wilhelminapolder is situated. Though our website www.kmwp.nl is not translated into English the website and the published photos give a good impression of this large farm, where I am the managing director. Running this farm gives me the opportunity to gather a broad view on farming in the Netherlands. This report will give the reader an idea of what is going on, as far as possible I will add some photographs as well.

General

Politics

Our government, a coalition of liberal and christen democratic parties was established in May 2003, the second half of 2004 the Netherlands was president of the EU. The Russians used this to block import of fresh goods, like flowers, vegetables onions and potatoes.

Our large 2004 crop cannot be sold to Russia and prices are therefore sunk to a dramatic level starting at € 0,50 for onions to € 3,00 for potatoes, all prices in 100 kg. Nationally it is not easy to influence the political debate, everything is financially under pressure and the agricultural issues are all being influenced by the new MTR policy. As prices are low to very low in almost every sector of agriculture farmers are down and the discussions have a very negative undertone.

The government has chosen to use the historical reference as the system to pay farmers in the future, there is some discussion on flat-rate but not much. Our rural development regulations have changed dramatically in the past year, laying more responsibility at county and town level. Hopefully this will work, local politicians in average are very short term oriented. The windturbine project on our farm was rejected by the l;ocal government due to the lack of muscle to withstand the negative public opinion.

The visit of Dr. Cees Vermaan to the Wilhelminapolder in 2003 has resulted in a large project for innovation, main objective is to get knowledge back to the field. In Dutch this abbreviated to KodA, have a look at www.kennisopdeakker.nl Total budget for 4 years will be somewhere around 8 mio euro, financed equally by the ministry of agriculture and private companies, mostly those who process our products, like sugar, grain and potato processors.

 

Prices

Not an interesting subject to write about, lower than low. What a shame the commission decided to reduce the set-aside in 2004 to 5%, this has given an extra amount of wheat. We sold wheat of average quality in December for € 104 and in January for € 102. Now we are out of stock, forget all about it and clean out the bins to be ready for a new harvest. The decision to tender 2 mio tons for export is absolutely necessary to get rid of those enormous stocks in the Eastern, new part of the EU. For onions there is no hope, stocks are enormous, prices are as low as € 4 per ton packed and palletized.

Potato prices same problem, but tide may change a bit later in the season, good export of packed potatoes will help the market to recover, but it is a low maret and it will stay low, but maybe a little more than the € 3 to 4 euro now.

Weather

In 2004 the conditions to grow crops where in our region really optimum. Always enough rain, always enough sun and no diseases that destroyed part of the always available potential.

Crops

Potatoes

Processing & table potatoes

Good yields averaging between 45 and 60 ton depending on variety and earliness. We have now changed to growing more and more table potatoes and this gives us the opportunity to harvest rather early. But nowadays quality is more and more important and pays for a bit reduction in yield. Those who were at the Wilhelminapolder have seen our new potato-warehouse. It is now fully filled with 1.750 tons in boxes. It was quite a project though to get things ready before harvest.

 

Seed potatoes

 

Average yield of good quality. The markets is slow, we are grading everyday but there is not much packing to do at the moment. We hope next month demand will grow and buyers start coming back to the market. Processors are dealing with farmers that don’t want to pay very much for there seedpotatoes.

 

Onions

We have two different types of onions on the farm. This year again about 100 Ha is rented out for the production of onion-sets. The yield was again good, mainly because it is an early crop that grows before it stopped raining.

This year we grew 40 Ha of onions ourselves. Early drilling and good growing conditions deliverd a tremendous large harvest. The result is nothing to write about again. Hopefully next year prices will be better. We have been delivering onions since November to our contract partner. 75% is a fixed price, 25% is market price.
 
Various

Sugarbeet

This year we grow about 217 Ha of sugar beet on our own land and another 4 Ha on a neighbours land, we supply the seed and do the harvest. Sugar beet is an important crop for all of us in Europe. Never seen a higher yielding crop than this year, we averaged 74 tons per Ha wit 12 ton of sugar, for our region an extreme yield.

Remarkable was the fact that we didn’t see large differences between field, so no low yields on any field but just average on every field.

The Fischler proposals for the sugar reform will be rewritten by mrs Fischer-Boell and will be debated in the next months, resulting in a marathon meeting of the ministers of agriculture somewhere in November. So 2005 will be of grat importance for the future of

sugar beet growing farmers, if we lose this the way it is proposed now, we are in great trouble. So be aware of this and use all your efforts to influence politicians, locally and regionally is just as important as the national and European politicians. Our meeting in

Brussel ending in the European Parliament was of great importance to support our MEP in their fight for a reasonable farming income. So do your best and don’t hesitate to contact me with good idea’s.

Alfalfa

Good yields for this crop in 2004.

Next EAF activity

We will meet in Denmark this summer from 23rd – 26th of June, later in the year, from 6th – 8th of November, we will have our meeting in connection with the Agritechnica two events to be prepared for so take you agenda and make reservations in your agenda. My next

international trip will be to the SIMA, I will visit this show Wednesday the 2nd of March, who will be there do drink a glass of wine with?