Agri-trade Report 2008

Tom Van Bogaert, Johan Janssens, Jonathan Platteau, Vincent Samborski

September 2009

The total Belgian trade in agricultural products shows a positive trade balance. Both imports and exports are increasing significantly. In contrast to the general trend in foreign trade, the agricultural trade surplus increased by 5.5% in 2008 It now amounts to 3.5 billion Euros. In 2008 total exports came to 34.1 billion Euros, while imports of agricultural products were 30.6 billion Euros. In comparison: 30.1 billion Euros of agricultural products were exported and 26.7 billion Euros were imported in 2007.

The share of imports and exports of agricultural products in the total Belgian trade is 9.6% and 10.6% respectively, which indicates the not to be underestimated importance of the agricultural sector for Belgian exports. Figures from the National Bank of Belgium show that Flanders is responsible for 82% of national imports and 83% of national exports of agricultural products.

The EU Member States are the most important agricultural trading partners, even more so than in total Belgian trade. 73% of imported agricultural products come from the EU and 84% of exported agricultural products go to EU Member States. Within the EU, the neighbouring countries in particular are of great importance. Almost 62% of agricultural imports come from the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, France and the United Kingdom. These five, with 67%, are also the largest sales markets for Belgian agricultural products. The United Kingdom and Germany contribute the most to the Belgian trade surplus in agricultural products, with a positive balance of 2 billion Euros and 1.6 billion Euros respectively. In the EU, Belgium only has an agricultural product trade deficit with the Netherlands (-613 million Euros) and, to a lesser extent, with Lithuania (-37 million Euros).

Arable farming products represent by far the greatest import and export values in Belgian agricultural trade. Belgium imports 10.9 billion Euros of arable farming products and exports for a value of 11.1 billion Euros. Products such as rapeseed, soya, coffee, cocoa and oil-yielding by-products are imported in bulk from non-EU countries. Cereal products are the most important export product, especially due to confectionery products, malt, wheat meal and pasta.

Belgium realises a trade surplus especially in animal and agri-industrial products (each for 1.8 billion Euros). Dairy products represent 48% of the import value and 39% of the export value of animal products. However, the most important export product in this category is fresh pork, followed by veal and beef, poultry and dairy preparations. Fertilisers are the most important product in the trade of agri-industrial products. Belgium mainly exports nitrogenous and composite fertilisers, and imports potassium-containing fertilisers. Belgium is also an export country for pesticides and agricultural equipment.

Only in the category of other agricultural and fishery products does Belgium have a trade deficit (680 million Euros). The trade deficit is primarily due to the negative balance with our neighbouring countries, France and the Netherlands. Belgium imports large quantities of wine, alcohol, soft drinks and water from France. From the Netherlands it imports a lot of animal feed and crustaceans and molluscs.

The trade surplus in horticultural products (299 million Euros) is largely due to the export of frozen vegetables, fruit juices, fresh pears and tomatoes, primarily to EU Member States. Subtropical fruit is imported on a large scale from countries outside the EU.

Belgium accounts for 7.7% of agricultural imports and 9% of agricultural exports of the European Union. It occupies sixth and fourth place respectively. Belgium is even the second largest exporter of agri-industrial products. The high figures for Belgium indicate that our country has a very open economy that thrives off the import, export and transit of products. The ports play an important role in this.

All EU Member States together import agricultural products for a total value of 399 billion Euros. The total export value is 381 billion Euros. Germany records the largest import and export values. For imports, the top three are completed with France and the United Kingdom, and for exports the Netherlands and France are in second and third place. The twelve new Member States are still less important with regard to foreign agricultural trade. They represent 10.9% of the import value and 10.1% of the export value in the EU.

Belgium has the fourth largest agricultural trade surplus of all EU Member States. Only the Netherlands, France and Denmark do better. The deficit in European agricultural trade is primarily due to the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Germany and Greece. Among the new Member States, only Poland and Lithuania have a trade surplus.

Arable farming products in the EU represent the highest value for both imports and exports, ahead of animal products and other agricultural and fishery products. In the total trade of EU Member States, agricultural trade accounts for around 9.5% of the import and export values.

Original version:



Van Bogaert T., Janssens J., Platteau J. & Samborski V. (2009)
Agrohandelsrapport 2008
Beleidsdomein Landbouw en Visserij, afdeling Monitoring en Studie, Brussel.


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