Cargo ship lost at least 345 containers, but final total still unclear

The number of containers lost by giant freight ship MSC Zoe in early January has now been revised upwards to at least 345, website said on Wednesday. The highest total so far mentioned was 291, of which a large proportion have now been located, many on the sea bed. The search area has now been expanded to cover 2,700 square kilometres. The new estimate comes after containers were unloaded in both Germany and Poland, allowing officials to determine how many were actually missing. Dutch officials hope to get a final total next week, said. At least 21 containers which fell off the ship near the German Wadden Sea island of Borkum washed up on the Dutch coast, littering the beaches with toys, chairs and even flat-screen tvs. The MSC Zoe is one of the biggest freighters in the world and can carry 19,000 containers in total. It was heading from Portugal to Bremerhaven in Germany when the containers came loose in high seas.  More >

Multichannel retailers boost online sales

Webshops reported a 13% rise in turnover last year, but bricks and mortar shops with online operations reported a 26% rise in online sales, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS. The retail sector as a whole booked a 3.3% rise in sales. This is the second highest growth since 2006 but still down almost one percentage point on 2017, the CBS said. One in every 10 retail purchases by the Dutch is now made online, webshop association Thuiswinkel said last year.   More >

Minimum speeds key in mobile internet

The Dutch government should introduce minimum speeds for mobile internet in rural areas to help maintain the Netherlands' leading role in the field, according to a new report for the economic affairs ministry. The report recommends that minimum mobile speeds are included in the technical specifications when new frequencies are auctioned off later this year. 'There are still places in the Netherlands where outdoor mobile coverage is inadequate, such as in areas where it is not profitable for providers,' junior economic affairs minister Mona Keizer said. 'The cabinet wants to solve this in the forthcoming auction. Fast, mobile internet which is available everywhere and for everyone is now seen as a basic need.' The report compilers recommend a minimum speed of 8 megabit per second by 2022 and 10 megabit per second in 2026. The ministry plans to hold the frequency auction by the end of 2019, which means it must publish the terms and conditions by the summer. Read the report (in English)  More >

Dutch vanilla growing hopes dashed

Efforts by Dutch horticulturalists to commercially grow vanilla have failed, news website RTLZ said on Thursday. Scientists at Wageningen University have been experimenting with growing vanilla since 2012 and in 2016 the private sector and outside investors became involved. In total, €350,000 was pumped into the project, half from public sources, but it has proved impossible to grow the the flavouring without financial help, RTLZ said. The last pods will be harvested this October. Vanilla is a slow-growing plant and it takes three years to produce pods. Vanilla is one of the most expensive spices in the world, with a kilo costing around €550. Some 90% comes from the island of Madagascar and the trade is in the hands of a few powerful families. The high price was one reason why Wageningen researchers began their experiment to assess how many pods can be harvested from a plant grown in a Dutch greenhouse and what is the cost. 'We have managed to get the vanilla plans to flower and produce pods but I can't guarantee the harvest and that is necessary to make a good business case,' researcher Filip van Noort told RTLZ.  More >

Heineken sells 7.7% more own brand beer

Beer group Heineken saw own label sales rise 7.7% in volume terms last year, the highest increase in a decade, the company said on Wednesday. Heineken puts the increase largely down to the success of its alcohol-free brand 0.0 which was launched in 2016 and is now available in 38 countries, more than double the 2017 total. Sales in all regions grew and Brazil recorded a strong performance following the successful integration of the two businesses there, the company said. 'Going into 2019, we expect the environment to remain uncertain and volatile,' chief executive Jean-Francois van Boxmeer said. 'Overall, we anticipate our operating profit (beia) to grow by mid-single digit on an organic basis.' The brewing group booked net profit of €1.9bn, a drop of 1.6% on sales up 3.7% at nearly €27bn.  More >