'Concern to everyone': Dramatic drop in tomatoes grown in Flanders

'Concern to everyone': Dramatic drop in tomatoes grown in Flanders
Greenhouse-grown tomatoes. Credit: Canva

The number of tomato growers in Flanders has plummeted, with more and more family farms that cultivated the fruit leaving the region.

Between 2005 and 2020, the number of farmers growing tomatoes decreased by 68%, falling from 546 to 174. The revelation comes after a request from far-right Vlaams Belang's MP Stefaan Sintobin, who expressed concern for the decline in Flemish agricultural businesses.

"The fact that the number of Flemish agricultural businesses is constantly decreasing should be of concern to everyone. If the Flemish government wants to keep our family farms, it will also have to do something about all the regulatory nonsense," Sintobin said.

Commenting on the nitrogen framework — a package of measures with which Flanders wants to drastically reduce nitrogen emissions — he previously argued that the measure would be "a bad thing for the future of agriculture and would limit prospects for young farmers.

Farmers have also criticised the framework, stating it “is a sledgehammer blow for our agriculture and horticulture,” and reportedly makes entrepreneurship and developments in the sector impossible

Provincial disparities

In the province of Antwerp, the number of tomato growers fell by 60% in 15 years; in East Flanders, this drop was no less than 70%. In West Flanders, there are five times fewer growers than 15 years ago.

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The region has also seen a drop in the number of pig and cattle farmers, as well as pear growers. Between 2011 and 2020, the number of farmers growing the fruits fell from 960 to 816. In Limburg – the province with by far the most pear growers – there was a 11.5% decline, falling from 514 to 455.

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