Many Dutch farmers live for years in poverty

Nearly half of Dutch poultry farmers have been living below the poverty for an average of 15 years, according to an ING report on the state of Dutch agriculture. Half of chicken farmers and 45 percent of pig farmers lived on less than 22,300 a year between 2001 and 2015, Trouw reports.

According to the bank's Economic Bureau, Dutch farmers struggle more than their other European colleagues. The Netherlands implemented relatively strict environmental legislation in recent years, which meant that farmers had to invest heavily to comply. Poultry and pig farmers also have to buy "rights" to be allowed to keep their animals.

"Often only scaling up can keep a household income up to standard", Cor Bruns, food and agriculture specialist at ING, said to the newspaper. But those who want to do so, have to overcome the constantly rising land prices. Currently farmers pay an average of 57 thousand euros per hectare ground. That is 10 thousand euros more than five years ago. Some neighboring countries pay about half that.

In the last 50 years an average of 7 thousand hectare of agricultural land disappeared per year in the Netherlands. In its place came recreation places, hospitality places, roads, housing and nature reserves, according to the newspaper.

In 2012 poultry farmers switched to free range chickens when battery farms were banned. That cost heavy investment. Meanwhile free range eggs bring in little. Pig farmers in turn face high feed prices.

The biggest problem facing pig and poultry farmers is that their costs increased but the income from their products not so much. Farmers need to drastically change their method, according to Bruns. He advises farmers to start building up reserves for bad times, instead of directly investing as money comes in. Farmers should also see whether they can create a product for a niche market. "Bulk for the world market is very price sensitive. It's different when you are focused on a specific group of consumers. You can ask more for that."

 

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