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    Belgian food sees fans abroad, but struggles locally

    Belgian food sees fans abroad, and is there anything more Belgian than a waffle? Credit: Wikipedia

    Across the world, more countries are taking an interest in Belgian food, and exports are up 3.5%, according to the latest report from the organisation of Belgian food producers.

    “Exports to overseas markets such as the US, Canada, China and South Korea in particular increased by no less than 18% last year. The trade agreements with, among others, Canada certainly help in this,” said Jan Vander Stichele, president of Fevia.

    “We also reap the benefits of successful trade missions, where our country with the promotional brand “Food.be – Small country. Great food. “Highlights the strengths of Belgian food,” added Vander Stichele. 

    The rise in exports created an additional 2,000 jobs in the Belgian food industry last year, an increase of 2.2%, with demand so high that some companies are struggling to fill openings.

    Many of the new jobs require highly skilled workers and people with the right skills are not always readily available to fill the 1500 vacancies in the sector, warns the report. “We need more talent inflow through education, retraining and activation. It is up to policymakers to work out the right framework for this,” explained Bart Buysse, CEO of Fevia.

    Despite the success abroad, the same cannot be said for the food industry in Belgium. Turnover dropped 5.3% last year as Belgians frequently decide to shop outside of the country, motivated in part by lower prices on the same items due to high Belgian tax.

    “We, therefore, call on future governments to get rid of that typical Belgian lasagne in excise duties, taxes and levies on food. These are often motivated by purely budgetary considerations, make our products too expensive and encourage border purchases. We all lose in that,” said Vander Stichele.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times