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Country report - Belgium

by Paul Verbeke, BioForum Vlaanderen

This article was originally written for the publication "Organic in Europe", published by the IFOAM EU Group in collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Switzerland, and the Mediterranean Institute for Agronomic Research CIHEAM-IAM, Bari, Italy. 

Key indicators 2012

  • Organic agricultural area: Belgium: 59,684 hectares
  • Operators:
    • Producers:
      • Flanders: 299
      • Wallonia:1,090
      • Belgium:1,389
    • Processors:691 (2011)
    • Importers: 121 (2011)
    • Exporters: No data
  • Retail sales:EUR 419 million (2013; 2014: 435)

Area data: Departement Landbouw en Visserij and Eurostat; market data: GFK survey on products sold on the domestic market. Provided by Departement Landbouw en Visserij

History of organic farming

  • 1960: The first organic farmer in Flanders
  • 1970: VELT, Association of Ecological Living and Gardening (Vereniging voor Ecologische Leef- en Teeltwijze) is founded
  • 1982: The private organic label BioGarantie is launched
  • 1992: The first two control bodies are founded
  • 1998: PCBT (Interprovinciaal Proefcentrum voor de Biologische Teelt), the first organic demonstration and research farm, is founded
  • 1999: The organic sector organisation BioForum is founded

Key sector institutions

  • Belgium
  • Flanders
    • BioForum Flanders (BioForum Vlaanderen), sector organisation: www.bioforumvlaanderen.be
    • Coordination Centre for Applied Research in Organic Agriculture (Coordinatiecentrum praktijkgericht onderzoek en voorlichting Biologische Teelt - CCBT): www.ccbt.be
    • Flemish Centre for the Marketing of Agricultural and Fishery products (Vlaams Centrum voor Agro- en Visserijmarketing vzw - VLAM): www.vlam.be/who/
    • Inagro – extension, research and other services: www.inagro.be
  • Wallonia
    • BioForum Wallonia (BioForum Wallonie), sector organisation: www.biowallonie.be
    • Centre for Organic Field Experiments (Centre d’Essais Bio - CEB)
    • Nature & Progres, promotion of organic agriculture: www.natpro.be
    • National Union of Organic Producers (UNAB): www.unab-bio.be

Production base: land use and key crops

  • Of the total organic area (55,304 hectares in 2011) 71.9 % consists of permanent grassland and grazing area, 26.6 % is arable land and 1 % permanent cropland
  • The key arable crops are green fodder from arable land including temporary grasses and grazing areas (6,233 hectares), cereals - mainly wheat, triticale and barley – (4,816 hectares), protein crops (1 284 hectares), and vegetables (744 hectares)
  • The key permanent crops are orchards with temperate fruits (439 hectares, 214 hectares of which are apples; and 72 hectares of berries).

Market

The Belgian organic market is rather small, but has grown steadily in the past years. The per capita spending on organic products is about EUR 37.9. The market share for fresh organic products is 1.9 %, and for all organic products it is 1.5 %.

  • Top-selling products: Meat substitutes (24.5 % of all meat substitutes), eggs (8.9 %), and vegetables (5 %). These are sorted by share of the respective total market.
  • Market channels: Distribution comprises general retailers (44.4 %), discounters such as Aldi and Lidl (4.2 %), local groceries (11.5 %), farmers’ markets (4.3 %), specialised organic shops (31.5 %) and farm stores, vegetable boxes and direct selling (4.1 %).
  • Exports and imports: Global data on exports and imports are not (publically) available. As Belgium is a small country situated between producer (e.g. The Netherlands) and/or consumer (e.g. Germany) countries, it may be assumed that many products are imported and exported. We assume that more products are imported than exported.

Standards, legislation, organic logo

In Belgium, the EU legislation on organic farming, other regulations, and regional (Flemish and Walloon) legislation apply.

Most organic products bear the Belgian label Biogarantie. This is a private label that has existed for more than 30 years and is owned by the non-profit organisation Biogarantie vzw, which represents the Belgian organic sector. It can only be used on organic certified products and after the payment of royalties and membership. The standards are broader than EU legislation on organic farming and take different aspects of sustainability during production and handling into account. The Biogarantie label signifies that a product is more than just organic.

There are quite a lot of foreign organic products on the Belgian market, with one or more labels.In Belgium, the best known labels are the EKO logo from the Netherlands, the Agriculture Biologique (AB) logo from France, and the German labels. Foreign organic products can also obtain the Belgian Biogarantie label. This facilitates recognition by the Belgian consumer.Some products comply with the standards of the organic-dynamic movement. In Belgium, only a few farmers follow Demeter, and products are only sold in specialized organic shops.

Policy support

  • National action plans: The Flemish and Walloon regions both have their own action plans. In Flanders there is the Strategisch Plan Biologische Landbouw 2013 to 2017, which focuses on sustainable qualitative and quantitative growth of organic agriculture in Flanders and balanced market development. Wallonia has the Plan strategique pour le developpement de l’agriculture biologique en Wallonie a l’horizon 2020.
  • Support under EU rural development programmes: The Flemish and Walloon regions each have their own programmes. Different financial support measures are available for organic farmers. These include support for investments, organic inspections and certification costs, as well as organic area payments and extension services, and assistance in planning the conversion to organic production.

Research & advice

The Flemish and the Walloon region each have their own research and extension programmes. In Flanders, organic research is coordinated by CCBT. Research and extension itself is conducted by six agricultural institutes, each with its own specialisation. Five of them work in both conventional and organic research and extension. One, Inagro, has a division working exclusively on crop production. In Wallonia, research is conducted by CEB.

Challenges & outlook

Important challenges include the needs to achieve a balance between the supply and demand of organic products, and to stimulate conventional farmers to convert to organic farming. More organic farmers are needed to supply the domestic market with domestic organic produce.

Further information

For other relevant websites, see the section on key sector institutions.

Organic agricultural policy is under the competency of the Flemish and Walloon regions. Therefore most information is regional in nature.

Contact

Paul Verbeke
BioForum Vlaanderen
Quellinstraat 42
2018 Antwerpen
Belgium
Tel +32 3 286 92 78
Fax +32 3 286 92 79
info@no-spam.bioforumvl.be
paul.verbeke@no-spam.bioforumvl.be
www.bioforumvlaanderen.be

Organic in Europe 2014

  • Organic in Europe 2014 - Prospects and Developments
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