Press release / 21 April 2023

Manifesto: The Netherlands can reduce its international footprint with new Agricultural Agreement

The Dutch Agriculture Agreement, which is currently under development, is too much focused solely on the Netherlands. That is the opinion of a broad coalition of more than sixty NGOs, farmers' organisations, scientists and companies that have today sent an urgent letter to agriculture minister Piet Adema and foreign trade and development minister Liesje Schreinemacher. The government's agricultural policy should also aim to reduce the Netherlands' enormous agrarian footprint beyond our borders, by taking food security and the preservation of biodiversity as its starting points. The coalition has published a manifesto in which it sets out how reform of the Netherlands' foreign agricultural policy could be given shape.

Through its agrarian trading position, the import and export of agricultural products, and the export of the Dutch agricultural model, the Netherlands is now inextricably part of the global agricultural system.

"Dutch agriculture and our role in the worldwide food system have an enormous impact on farmers, the climate, food security, market development and the environment in the Global South," says Nout van der Vaart, policy officer for food and agriculture at Oxfam Novib.

"Dutch farmers are showing that things can be done differently, with a positive impact on food security and biodiversity in the rest of the world," says John Arink of Caring Farmers. "We would like to see that positive role reflected in our national and international agricultural policy, so that it offers prospects for farmers around the world."

Dutch agricultural policy beyond our borders

After the presentation of the Agriculture Agreement, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are expected to draw up an International Strategy for Sustainable Agriculture. The authors of and signatories to the manifesto published today call on the government to ensure that Dutch agricultural policy as a whole benefits farmers both in the Netherlands and in Asian, African and Latin American countries. That means it should relate not only to agriculture but also to foreign trade and investment policy.

Trade agreements

"Farmers in many countries outside Europe are suffering the consequences of trade agreements between their countries and the Netherlands or the EU," says Karin van Boxtel of Both ENDS. "These agreements contain clauses limiting the use of and trade in indigenous seeds. This restricts the opportunities of small-scale farmers to adapt seeds and plants to quickly changing weather conditions and thus to ensure the supply of sufficient food. It also makes them dependent on the seeds and associated pesticides of large multinationals. Moreover, trade agreements allow the large-scale sale of cheap milk powder and chicken meat from the EU, which hampers the development of local milk production and poultry farming."

Conversely, Dutch farmers will feel the impact of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement, under which meat and other products from South America produced under lower standards than those in force in the EU will be available on the Dutch market.

Fair and sustainable

The signatories to this manifesto believe that things can be done very differently. The Netherlands can ensure that its foreign agricultural policy contributes in a fair and sustainable way to local food security and biodiversity in the countries where it currently has an enormous agrarian footprint. The manifesto presents a number of practical suggestions for achieving this.

"We see the Netherlands applying double standards," says Violet Matiru of MCDI Kenya. "They want to increase food security here, but at the same time they promote trade that does not benefit farmers and consumers in Kenya. A good example is the flower sector, in which the Netherlands is a leading actor. In a country like Kenya, where people are dying of hunger, flowers are being produced on a large scale that are non-edible and do not contribute to food security."

The manifesto is an initiative of a group of organisations including Both ENDS and Oxfam Novib. It is still open for signatures until 8 May. It will be presented to Dutch parliament on Tuesday 9 May, so that the proposals it suggests can be included in the International Strategy for Sustainable Agriculture.

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