Country Focus Data: The Netherlands

by Melissa Alexander
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Capital: The Hague.

Demography: Population 15.8 million, 0.47% growth rate (1999 estimates); Dutch language; 59% Roman Catholic and Protestant religions, 36% unaffiliated.

Geography: In western Europe, bordering the North Sea; terrain is mostly flat coastal lowlands, some hills in the southeast; temperate marine climate.

Government: Constitutional monarchy. Chief of state is Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard; head of government is Prime Minister Wim Kok.

Official agricultural agencies: Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries under Minister Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst.

Economy: Market. A member of the European Union, the Netherlands is a prosperous, open economy with governmental influences. Beginning in the 1980s, government subsidies and social security spending were cut, and the next decade was characterized by sustained economic growth and moderate inflation. Dutch industrial activity focuses on food processing, petroleum refining and metalworking. The Netherlands was among the first wave of 11 E.U. countries launching the euro system in January 1999.

G.D.P. per capita: U.S.$22,200 (purchasing power parity); 3.7% growth rate; 2% inflation, 4.1% unemployment (all 1998 estimates).

Currency: Netherlands guilder. May 1, 2000 exchange rate: 2.41847 guilders per U.S. dollar. Guilder to be replaced by the euro on Jan. 1, 2002.

Exports: U.S.$160 billion (f.o.b., 1998), machinery and equipment, food, chemicals.

Imports: U.S.$142 billion (f.o.b., 1998), fuels, consumer goods, foodstuffs.

Major crops/agricultural products: Wheat, flowers, fruits, vegetables, livestock and products.

Wheat: The major grain crop, annual wheat production from 1995-2000 averaged 1.09 million tonnes. With total use averaging 3.7 million annually in the same period, the Netherlands relies on imports to meet domestic needs. Feed use of wheat averaged about 1.7 million tonnes during the period, but has been increasing steadily as wheat prices have declined.

Coarse grains: The Netherlands produces about 400,000 tonnes of coarse grains annually. Imports averaged 3.3 million tonnes annually in the past five seasons. About 1.9 million tonnes per year is consumed for feed, with industrial use accounting for most of the remainder. Maize constitutes the bulk of the coarse grains imported.

Oilseeds: As with coarse grains, oilseed production is minimal, but the Netherlands is among the world's largest soybean importers and imports smaller amounts of rapeseed. In 1997-98, the country was the world's single largest destination for soybeans, importing slightly more than 5 million tonnes. In the 1995-2000 seasons, soybean crush has averaged 4.1 million tonnes a year. The five-year annual average of total oilseed imports was about 5.8 million tonnes.

Transportation: Rail, 2,813 km, all 1.435-m gauge; highways, 127,000 km, 114.427 paved; major ports are Rotterdam, Amsterdam.