Belgium, often celebrated for its waffles and chocolates, also has an agricultural story to tell that’s been consistently changing over the centuries. There’s a shifting narrative concerning the nation’s agricultural landscape prompted by evolving trends and challenges. Overall, the industry has been on a downward trajectory over the country’s most recent history.
Only a small fraction of Belgium's active workforce works in agriculture, a trend that continues to diminish both in terms of employment and its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Currently, a mere 2% of the population is employed in agriculture. While agriculture is dispersed across the country (small farms can be found throughout Belgium), most of the activity is based in Flanders to the North. Agricultural land covers approximately 39% of the nation's territory (that includes the production of forest products) but only 1% of it is dedicated to permanent crops.
What’s interesting about Belgium’s agriculture is its dependence on crops that aren’t native to the region. A surprising 82-98% of the food energy consumed in Belgium is derived from non-native crops, whose diversity is primarily found in distant parts of the world. This reliance on foreign crops underscores the need for sustainable agricultural practices and diversification of food sources – a process that’s been slow to implement, though not at all surprising considering Belgium’s declining agricultural market.
Belgium's agricultural landscape is shaped by two major trends. First, the traditional small family farm is gradually disappearing in favor of large agribusinesses. Over the past three decades, the number of small farms has dwindled by 80%. Second, the sector is experiencing an expansion in output. This growth is driven by new technologies and scientific advancements in crop research, resulting in increased yields. Between 1995 and 1999, crop production surged by an impressive 9 percent.