chapter  20
20 Pages

A Biobased Economy for the Netherlands

ByJ. P. M. Sanders, J. W. A. Langeveld

The Netherlands is a small but densely populated country basically consisting of an extended delta and higher sandy and clay areas, plus old and newly developed polders. Combining highly effective agriculture with food, feed and chemical industries, it contains strategic biobased sectors, further advantages including effective logistical (harbours, rivers) and knowledge infrastructures. The Netherlands rank third in global agricultural exports, the agrosector providing 17 per cent of exports and 10 per cent of all employment. Dutch arable farming, supported by crop yields that are among the highest in Europe, realizes an annual turnover of €23 billion, while total turnover in the agro-food complex amounts to €40 billion (Sanders and van der Hoeven, 2008). Half of the 100 most competitive products in the Netherlands originate in the agro-food complex (Jacobs and Lankhuizen, 2006). Dutch strengths further include chemical industry and an energy sector sourcing gas in the Netherlands and oil from overseas. The latter can absorb biomass residues, thus generating energy at low costs provided different parties cooperate. The fact that agriculture maintained a relevant role despite reducing agri-

cultural areas, declining economic margins and loss of employment is explained by intensification of agricultural production (intensive livestock and horticultural production), knowledge and research investments. Based on high animal densities supported by relatively low prices of concentrates, and inorganic fertilizers and high amounts of imported feed, the Netherlands developed exceptionally high levels of manure availability and subsequent problems of nutrient leaching affecting groundwater and surface water quality (Berentsen and Tiessink, 2003). In response, the Dutch developed increasingly tight environmental legislation, success of which, however, has to date been limited. Following problems related to climate change and energy insecurity, the government further expressed its intention

to become one of the cleanest and energy-efficient economies in Europe. The current chapter will discuss specific characteristics of biomass production and utilization, and the role this may play in development of a biobased economy. In the next section of this chapter an outline of Dutch agriculture and biomass potentials will be sketched. In the third section, three biobased initiatives will be presented, followed by a discussion (fourth section) and conclusion (fifth section).