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Netherlands EU's largest importer of soy, palm oil and cocoa

Christian Fernsby |
The Netherlands is a major importer of products that the European Commission links to deforestation and land degradation.

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Examples include soy, palm oil and cocoa. Of all EU countries, the Netherlands obtained the most goods at risk of deforestation from non EU countries in 2022.

The majority of these goods ultimately end up abroad. The food industry is the largest user of these goods in the Netherlands.

Statistics Netherlands reports this in the Internationalization Monitor.

In May this year, the European Council adopted new rules to ensure that consumption and trade in the EU do not contribute to deforestation and further damage to forest ecosystems.

Deforestation and forest degradation are mainly caused by the increasing amount of agricultural land available worldwide. Specific examples of imported products that have a link to deforestation are soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee and all derivatives thereof.

The Netherlands is the largest EU importer of soy (products), palm oil (products) and cocoa (products) from non EU countries in terms of import value.

The Netherlands is also the second EU importer of wood (products) and beef (products) from non EU countries and the sixth EU importer of coffee (much of it arrives via Germany and Belgium).

Since 2002, the import volume of wood from non EU countries has increased the most (+125 percent), followed by cocoa (+67 percent), beef (+53 percent) and palm oil (+19 percent). The import volume of coffee fell slightly (by 2 percent) and that of soy fell by 21 percent.

Brazil is the country outside the EU from which the Netherlands obtains the most goods at risk of deforestation. In 2022, these goods were worth 3.2 billion euros.

This mainly concerned soy and wood or wood products. A lot of soy and wood also comes from the United States, the second country of origin after Brazil.

Ivory Coast, in third place, mainly produces cocoa beans.

The Netherlands gets a lot of wooden furniture from China and mainly palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia. The United Kingdom (particularly timber), Uruguay (timber and beef), Argentina (beef and soya) and Ghana (cocoa) are also in the top 10 of countries of origin outside the EU.

The Netherlands also imports goods with a risk of deforestation within the EU. These are mainly wood and wood products from Germany, Belgium and Sweden.

The Netherlands even imports a larger amount of wood and wood products than all other deforestation related products combined.

Of the total imports of goods at risk of deforestation, excluding quasi transit, 28 percent are re exported abroad. Of these goods, 33 percent go abroad after processing in the Netherlands and 39 percent remain in the Netherlands (direct consumption or after processing in the Netherlands).

Wood, coffee and beef remain relatively the most in the Netherlands after import. Cocoa is re exported relatively often after import. Palm oil and soy are processed relatively often in the Netherlands for export.

The use per industry can be examined for goods that are not immediately transported abroad after import. The food industry has the largest share of use by Dutch industries at 41 percent.

In addition, it is the only industry that uses all types of goods at risk of deforestation. The largest users after the food industry (paper industry, construction, furniture industry, business services) only use wood.

Furthermore, more and more imported wood has been used for energy supply (burning woody biomass) in recent years. The catering industry uses a relatively large amount of imported beef.

Most of the imports of products with a risk of deforestation processed by the food industry ultimately end up abroad. In 2021 it was 79 percent. The remaining 21 percent of the processed products remain in the Netherlands.

In the other industries (taken together), 58 percent stays in the Netherlands and 42 percent goes abroad. For example, the construction sector only processes wood, 91 percent of which is destined for the Netherlands and only 9 percent goes abroad.

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