The area devoted to growing potatoes and the production of this tuber has not stopped growing in recent years in Belgium. It has made the humble potato, in value terms, “the most important crop after vegetables.” This has been revealed by SPF Economy statistics, published a few days before the 83rd Agricultural Fair at Libramont. In 2016, the area given over to potato cultivation reached a record 89,163 hectares, with a sharp rise of 13.38% compared to 2015. This was particularly marked when likened to 2000, with an increase in the area cultivated of more than 35% since that time.
Logically, this growth was accompanied by a significant increase in potato production. Between 1998 and 2015. This increased by nearly 50% and even, looked at another way “more than tripled in under 40 years.” This equates to the time period between 1973-1975 and 2013-2015. It corresponds to an increase of 3.1% per year. The FPS Economy has reported this. Over this period, the harvest from growing potatoes increased by 171%, or an increase of 1.4% per year on average.
Last year, which was however marked by a very wet spring, saw potato production in Belgium witness a significant decline of 7.11% compared to 2015, to more than 3.4 million tonnes. You might say this was a “blunder” which did nothing to detract from the unstoppable rise of the Belgian potato. Moreover, 2016 was a successful year for the Belgian sector for the potato-processing into other products. Some 4.4 million tonnes of potato were processed, or an increase of 11% compared to 2015 and a new all-time high. This is the view of the sectoral federation Belgapom.
Of these 4.4 million tonnes, nearly 40% were processed into frozen chips. Moreover 80% of the Belgian production market were exported. The potato processing sector, which employed 4,115 workers in 2016, also invested a record €310 million last year. It is therefore under a sky which is rather more blue than previously thought that potato plants in the Belgium are starting to be grown. This is so even if certain clouds, namely protectionism and Brexit, are starting to rear their heads in patches.