The crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic hit trade in agricultural products less severely than sectors, according to figures from the National Bank (NBB).
In the first seven months of 2020, exports of agricultural products from Flanders fell by 2% compared to the same period in 2019. Imports, meanwhile, remained constant.
Other exporting industries, dropped by 14% over the same period, with imports down 17%.
And even at the lowest point, agricultural trade was down 15%, while other sectors were doing twice as badly, down 30%.
Agricultural exports totalled €22.5 billion during the period, and imports €19 billion, but the limited damage is largely due to the good figure of the first quarter, while the pandemic was still only beginning to make itself felt, the NBB said. In Q1, sales were up 5% on 2019, before dropping 9% in April and 15% in May.
June saw a slight recovery, before July saw a new fall. Over the whole period, imports saw a serious fall only in May, of 13%.
Within the sector, horticultural products such as fresh fruit and vegetables and garden plants, and processed agri-food products such as frozen vegetables were the worst-affected, by 9% and 14% respectively.
Animal products including dairy, by contrast, weathered the storm relatively well, with a small increase of 1% in trade. Arable crops saw exports in the first quarter increase before falling back in April and May, particularly for potatoes, baking goods and cocoa goods.
“During the corona crisis, it once again became apparent how important our agri-food industry is,” said Flemish minister for agriculture and food Hilde Crevits (CD&V).
“The production and delivery of food is assured and the consumer has rediscovered the value of the farmer and the local shops. The figures for the first seven months of the year show that the agri-food sector has held up better than other sectors in difficult circumstances. It remains to be seen how the coming months will develop in order to be able to make an annual balance sheet.”