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    2016: awful year for Belgian agricultural production

    © Belga
    Last year, there were significant declines in all crop yields, both for the consumer and animal feed markets.
    © Belga

    Last year (2016) is a year that Belgian farmers will remember for a long time to come. However, for all the wrong reasons. It was marked by an extremely humid spring, and even floods in places. Thus the 2016 season witnessed decreased production for all crops. This was confirmed by the statistics of the FPS Economy, published a few days before the 83rd Agricultural Fair at Libramont (this will be held this coming weekend from 28th July to 31st July).

    Faced with low-quality grain and yield declines, some specialists did not hesitate last year to describe the corn harvest as the “worst that Belgium has witnessed in over 30 years.” The figures do not lie and the statistics published on Monday by the FPS Economy confirm this impression. The production of winter wheat last year amounted to 1.39 million tonnes. This is a huge decline of 27% compared to the 2015 yields, and the worst production level for a number of years.

    For other crops, the 2016 harvest figures are in line with this trend: winter barley and so-called six-row barley (331,284 tonnes, -19.2% compared to 2015), maize cultivated for its grain (480,496 tonnes, -30.6% reduction on the previous year), sugar beet (4.02 million tonnes, -9,7% on 2015), oil seed rape (39,452 tonnes, down -18.2%) and potatoes (3.4 million tonnes, down -7,11%).

    There were also significant declines in maize feed (5.97 million tonnes, a reduction of -25.5%) and fodder beet (313,446 tonnes, down -22,74% on 2015). These latter two crops are intended for animal feed rather than production for the consumer market.

    Despite the drought which has marked spring 2017, cereal harvests, which are currently in progress, should this year be significantly improved. Although the shortage of water has slowed down production, in particular for the development of cereal stalks and straw, the grain quality does overall seem much better this year.

    Lars Andersen
    The Brussels Times