What are some Belgian foods

Regional food in Belgium

Belgium's chocolate is sweet and world famous. The filled chocolates in particular delight young and old. Belgium's own chocolate festivals attract those with a sweet tooth from near and far. In addition, this country offers an abundance of culinary delicacies and an extraordinary density of upscale restaurants. The regional cuisine plays a major role: Game specialties are on the menu inland, while the coastal regions tempt you with delicious fish dishes or the national dish “Moules Frites” (mussels with French fries).
As diverse as the culinary offer in this country is, agriculture in Belgium has to contend with some problems.

The biggest is probably the death of farmers: there are fewer and fewer farms, and the number drops by around 4 percent every year. Rising energy costs, lower EU subsidies, increasing environmental regulations and the pressure to work on those employed in agriculture are cited as reasons for this downward trend.

Industrialized agriculture

Agricultural holdings in Belgium are mainly to be found in Wallonia. In contrast, Flanders is very industrial and Brussels attracts as the capital region. The farms are characterized by a very high degree of industrialization - in other words: they are very specialized and operate intensive farming in order to generate a high yield on a relatively small area. Overall, however, agriculture is of subordinate importance: It only accounts for 1 percent of the gross domestic product.
Belgium is known for its brisk commercial activity. Many agricultural products are imported and the export of agricultural products as well as food also accounts for a high proportion.
The organic sector had a positive start from the late 1990s to 2001. After that, the euphoria subsided and from 2008 double-digit growth rates (up to 29%) have been recorded annually. According to a panel survey by GfK, sales of organic products are 421mn EUR (2010), which means a market share of 1.8 percent of all foodstuffs.

Organic cultivation is just beginning

But organic farming is not a welcome alternative everywhere in Belgium. There are major regional differences: while organic farming only accounts for 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area in Flanders, it still reaches 6 percent in Wallonia (for comparison: the EU average is 8%). The reasons why organic farming is slow to take hold are different: On the one hand, it has to do with the topography of the country: Belgium is small and heavily urbanized. The available land is used for intensive agriculture. A switch to organic is initially accompanied by financial setbacks. On the other hand, Belgium imports numerous foods from the surrounding countries Germany, the Netherlands and France; around half of organic food is imported.
To raise awareness of organic farming, the “BioForum Vlaanderen” has existed since 2008, which increasingly points out the advantages of organic farming. Organic farming has received political tailwind from initiatives by the Ministry of Agriculture in recent years, which should at least arouse interest among the farmers. At least something is happening in the kingdom. But until there is the first organic chocolate festival in Belgium, until then a few boxes of the best pralines, but conventionally made, will be eaten.

Swell: Boerenbond, Organic-World.net, BioForum Belgium, GfK

Photos: Frank Wouters; Hajako / photocase

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