Organic farming on the increase in Flanders


Organic farming and sales have steadily increased in Flanders since the government introduced incentives six years ago

Organic farming is growing in popularity, but remains a tiny part of the market. Do you buy organic products?

Acreage increases by 45%

The acreage given over to organic farming in Flanders has almost doubled in the last six years, since the beginning of the government’s first strategic plan for organic agriculture, minister-president Kris Peeters announced yesterday. Peeters, whose portfolio also includes agriculture, was presenting the sector’s annual report.

Since 2008, the acreage of organic farming has risen by 45%. There are now 319 certified organic farms in Flanders, covering 5,065 hectares – 2.5% more than in 2012 and an average of 15.9 ha per producer. In 2013, 35 new producers began farming organically and 15 retired, giving a net growth of 20. West Flanders accounted for half of the increase.

The government launched its first strategic plan for the sector in 2008. A new strategic plan was introduced last year, with more of an emphasis on the short food-chain – cutting the number of steps and the number of kilometres between producer and consumer.

Support in 2013 amounted to €3.57 million: 38% for direct support to producers, 25% for research, 21% to market development and 16% to promotion. At the same time, the organic market, including non-food items such as detergents, amounted to €403 million last year, a market share of 1.6%.

Vegetables are the most common organic purchase by consumers, with two out of three families buying organic vegetables. The single product with the largest market share (23%) is meat substitutes such as tofu and seitan, while the smallest share of the market goes to organic meat, with only 0.7%.

“The annual report shows that 44% of all organic purchases in Flanders take place in average supermarkets,” Peeters said. “Specialist shops come in second place, with 31% of purchases. And it’s notable that the local supermarket is increasing in importance, with a share of 13.5%.”

The minister emphasised that the government intends “to continue investing in this remarkable sector to allow it to offer more home-grown products, so that even more consumers can enjoy our top-quality products more often.”

Photo courtesy Hajhouse/Wikimedia

Flemish agriculture and horticulture

Flanders is an important global food exporter. The main agricultural activities differ from region to region – with pig, cow, vegetable and dairy-farming the most important. In recent years, the sector has been heavily affected by the economic downturn and falling global food prices.
Green - Organic farming accounts for just a fraction of Flemish agriculture, but the sector has slowly been growing in recent years.
Greenhouse - Flanders has been a trailblazer in mapping the carbon footprint of agriculture.
Forgotten - Flemish horticulture’s “Bel’Orta” label aims to promote lesser-known vegetables like parsnip, parsley root and kohlrabi.

percent of Belgium’s fruit harvest comes from Flanders

25 982

agriculture businesses in Flanders in 2011

51 530

people employed in Flemish agriculture and horticulture in 2011