Foreign sales for the Belgian food industry soared 12% in 2021, amounting to €30 billion in turnover.
“Some of our food companies were badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, but they are back… and then some,” said Carole Dembour, Chief Economist for FEVIA, the trade association of the Belgian food industry.
“Our exports in 2021 went through the roof. The world is clearly smitten with our Belgian food.”
53% of Belgian exports go to neighbouring countries
Over half of Belgian food exports go to neighbouring countries, with France, Germany and the Netherlands alone accounting for 53% of total exports.
Belgian dairy products, beverages and meat are particularly high in demand.
Belgian food and drink is also more popular than ever in the United Kingdom, which is also in the top five destination countries for exports, along with Italy.
Exports to the UK rose by 36% in 2021, despite the complications presented by Brexit.
Exports outside the EU have risen sharply
Overseas exports – meaning exports to countries outside of the European Union and other than the United Kingdom – also rose sharply in recent years.
“Our main export markets are the United States, China, Japan, Russia and Norway, all of which were affected worse by the pandemic,” said Dembour. “That is exactly what makes their rebound in 2021 – by an impressive 12% – all the more remarkable.”
Above are the top 10 of the main product categories of Belgian overseas export destinations.
Sanctions against Russia in light of the war in Ukraine will undoubtedly bring some changes in terms of the biggest non-EU trading partners.
“Before the war in Ukraine, our exports to Russia amounted to €180 million in turnover. Demand for Belgian beer, water, chocolate and biscuits especially stood out,” Dembour explained.
“In light of the international tensions, the tide has since turned against Russia, forcing our food companies to seek out different markets out of necessity. However, the same applies in equal measure to other industries and in other countries.”
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The best-selling Belgian export products in overseas markets are frozen vegetables, chocolate, dairy products, beverages and biscuits, though there are differences in demand depending on the country.
The US, China and Russia have the highest demand for beverages, while Japan and Canada are importing Belgian chocolates and Norway looks for meal and malt.