Lekker: Belgian food exports see record high


Europe knows good meat and dairy when it sees it, as Belgium’s food exports continue to grow. domestic sales, however, are another issue

Overseas market up by 18%

Food exports from Belgium saw an all-time high in 2018, with a 3.5% increase on the previous year, according to the latest report from the Fevia food industry federation. Flanders is responsible for some 82% of all food production in the country.

Food is Flanders’ largest industry, good for more than one-quarter of all industrial enterprises. Nationwide exports, meanwhile, account for more than €27 billion in revenue.

While chocolate obviously continues to do well, Belgium is also known internationally for its quality frozen potato and vegetable products, as well as meat and dairy. Last year, the industry created 2,000 new jobs.

While the biggest export markets are neighbouring countries such as France and Germany, the biggest growth is seen in more foreign locals. “The overseas market, to places like the US, Canada, China and South Korea, grew by 18% last year,” said Fevia CEO Bart Buysse.

Excise duties, taxes and levies make our products too expensive, encouraging cross-border purchases

- Jan Vander Stichele

Belgium saw a positive trade balance last year of €5.5 billion, a whopping 25% increase on the year before. “The good news is that we are the largest industrial employer in the country, we are creating jobs, and we continue to grow in the export market,” said Buysse.

But that is followed by the bad news: Internal market revenues are falling. “The export figures are no longer compensating for the falling domestic market,” said Buysse. “The result is that our total revenue has decreased for the first time in years.”

Revenue from the internal market fell in 2018 by 5.3% on the year before. That means that Belgian consumers are buying fewer local products – or at least they’re buying fewer in Belgium.

Buysse points out that residents can easily cross the border to buy Belgian products cheaper in France or the Netherlands. “We call on the future governments to abandon those typical Belgian excise duties, taxes and levies,” said Fevia chair Jan Vander Stichele. “These are often set for purely budgetary reasons and make our products too expensive, encouraging cross-border purchases. And then we all lose.”

Buysse echoes the sentiment: “We would ask the future governments of this country: less taxation, more value creation.”

Photo courtesy Food.be