11 April 2018|agriculture

Work in the vegetables and fruit sector in the Netherlands

Work in the vegetables and fruit sector in the Netherlands


The season for fruit and vegetable picking is the time when seasonal workers are employed ­ they deal with harvesting, sorting, and packaging. One of the most popular destinations for such workers is the Netherlands, where agriculture is a crucial sector of the economy. The work can be performed outdoors (fields) or indoors (greenhouses, packaging halls). In most cases, the peak period of cultivation is summer. However, greenhouse cultivation in many industries is possible all year long. The specific character of the fruit and vegetables market and the resulting seasonal employment make it not attractive for everyone. Therefore, the agricultural market has to face new challenges related to employees’ recruitment – they rotate more often, it is harder to hire them and to make them stay in one workplace. In order to make their offers more attractive, employers have to be more flexible and increase salaries. Recently, in the agricultural industry, it is the employer who has to meet employees’ expectations.

Vegetables and fruit sector in the Netherlands

The Netherlands in one of the largest exporters of vegetables and fruit. More specifically, it holds the fourth position in the world ranking of fresh horticulture products exporters, and when it comes to fruit and vegetable export, it is the absolute leader! The Netherlands is the world-largest exporter of onions, Brussels sprouts, beetroots and root vegetables. It is also the second best in the export of mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, eggplants and leeks. Apart from vegetables, the Netherlands also exports fruit, such as pears, plums and grapes.

This large volume of export of vegetables and fruit entails increased demand for employees to work at cultivation, harvesting, sorting, washing and packing. Seasonal workers are already needed in April, when the asparagus harvest time begins. July and August are the busiest months at potato and cauliflower plantations. In September and October, harvesting of broccoli, cabbages and plums takes place, whereas early autumn is the time for picking apples and pears.

For whom is seasonal work attractive?

Seasonal work at harvesting and sorting fruit and vegetables in the Netherlands should be attractive for i.a. young people, university and high school students who are looking for a summer job. It is an opportunity to save money needed to cover the costs of living and studying. Fruit and vegetables harvesting may turn out to be attractive also for those who want to improve their financial situation after a long unemployment period and earn a substantial amount of money to cover their everyday spending or to pay off loan installments. However, the seasonality of work is not always attractive for them – when a candidate is looking for a permanent and steady source of income, work in agricultural sector may not seem appealing. A great possibility arises that such candidate is going to choose work in different, steadier sector. Employers from agricultural sector should compensate this lack of employment stability with greater salaries – this would make their offer more attractive.

Seasonal employment – why it is not attractive for everyone?

Not every employee can and wants to take up seasonal work in horticultural and agricultural markets. Such work is closely dependent on the peak seasons for a particular fruit or vegetable – that is why it is not a full-year work and those looking for permanent employment won’t be interested in such job offers. Work in the open field or in an orchard also depends on the weather conditions. They decide on whether harvest is going to be abundant or not. Rain or shine – the work has to be done.

In the case of work in greenhouses, the situation is different – due to the conditions inside a greenhouse, work can be performed all around the year, however most often it is seasonal. Even though weather conditions do not influence the abundance of harvest, they may influence the comfort of work – especially during summer, when temperatures inside greenhouses may become boiling.

Every type of seasonal work has its pros and cons which make it very attractive for some employees, but completely unappealing for others. The role of the employer is not only to gain, but also to keep the employee, whose requirements become greater, while the specific character of the agricultural market makes it hard to recruit permanent employees.