How ‘Tiny’ Netherlands Feeds the World: Why Lagos Can Take a Cue

Sanwo Olu

S. J. Samuel.
The population of the Netherlands as a country is similar to the population of Lagos as a government at state level. The Netherlands population stood at 17.18 million (2018) Eurostat with a land mass of 41,543 km2 while that of Lagos state is estimated at 17.5 million (2019) (though the Lagos population has been subjected to dispute recently) with a land mass of 3,577 km², which is about 0.4 per cent of the total land area of Nigeria. Also, both the Netherlands and Lagos have a few similarities in terms of geographical landscape, particularly the land and the coast. Lagos state has a coastline of 180 km long while the Netherlands stands at 451 km.

According to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), the economy of the Netherlands is the 17th largest in the world in 2019 while its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was estimated at $53,228, $4,428, a development that was higher than $48,800 in 2018, which also makes the Dutch people one of highest-earning countries in the world.

While the GDP of Lagos state is currently standing at $136 billion, nominal GDP of Nigeria reached $123.4 billion (Sep 2019). Incredibly, the Netherlands economy is 1.5 times the economy of Nigeria, despite its small size in comparison to Nigeria. According to the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Carola Schouten, the Dutch agriculture was valued at over 90 billion euros.

It is amazing that despite the fact that the Netherlands is a small, densely populated with more than 1,300 inhabitants per square mile, the country is the world’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, a development that is second to the United States, which has 270 times the Netherlands’ landmass. It means that Netherlands exports more food than any other European country, even larger neighbouring countries like Italy, Germany and France.
How on Earth did the Dutch become a top-dog in exporting agricultural products and food? Wageningen University & Research (WUR), which is ranked as the top agricultural university in the world, is the brain behind the astounding global achievement. “WUR is the nodal point of Food Valley, an expansive cluster of agricultural technology start-ups and experimental farms.”

The highly reputable university does not only serve as a research institution for technological advancement in agriculture, but also drives entrepreneurial in agriculture, especially “technologies as autonomous tractors, scanning drones, animal vaccinations, etc.
Between 2016 and 2017, the Netherlands agriculture rose to seven per cent in value, ranking in a huge sum of 5.5 billion euros extra to the country’s economy. In 2017, the Netherlands exported nearly $92 billion worth of agricultural produce. In 2019, agricultural exports generated a huge sum of 45 billion euros for the Dutch economy.

It is also reported that the Research and Development expenditure of Dutch companies has increased by nearly 11 per cent.
“Companies in the agricultural sector grew by around 19 per cent from 728 million euros to 864 million euros, marking a huge boost in productivity. The Netherlands earns most from horticulture (6.0 billion euros), dairy and eggs (4.7 billion euros), meat (4.1 billion euros) and vegetables (3.8 billion euros) while cereals, flour and milk, drinks, fruit, live animals and fish and seafood also yielded billions of euros for the Dutch economy while its remains the world’s top exporter of Tomato.”

The Dutch’s global dominance in agriculture is not unconnected to its decades of “refining and improving farming methods and limiting waste in the agriculture sector.” One of the innovative ways in which the Netherlands has been able to thrive at the cutting edge of innovation in all aspects of technological agribusiness is through its network of huge industrial greenhouses.

It has been projected that the world population would reach 9 billion people by 2050. Such alarming projection calls for global concerns if humanity would be saved from unprecedented hunger. Therefore, the need for an inclusive and aggressive production in food in order to match the impending global population explosion cannot be overemphasised. In the next four decades, the world would need to produce more food than world’s farmers have ever produced in the last two decades. The next wave of feeding a fast growing population lies in extensive services in the “promotion of scientific research, and the creation of specific types of agricultural education.”

It is high time the Nigerian government, particularly Lagos state, maximised its agricultural potentials through massive funding, especially for small-medium enterprises (SMEs), and programmes in the agrarian sector. The Lagos state government should further extend its drive in promoting scientific research and specific categories of agricultural education. The government should partner with private sector by creating the enabling environment for the sector where the real development comes from, just as the Netherlands does. If ‘tiny’ Netherlands could feed the world, surpassing its bigger neighbouring countries, despite its meager natural resources, how much more a state like Lagos with its huge natural endowment. This will not only bring in huge revenue for the state, but it will also create massive employment opportunities for its fast growing youth population. If the Dutch agriculture could be valued at over 90 billion euros, it is obvious that Lagos could surpass such figure if the huge resources at its disposal are harnessed.

Samuel is the Principal Partner, Sensale Research Group