BELGIUM, Brussels. The Belgian pig sector is recovering from the shock of African swine fever (ASF). Beef production, on the other hand, is declining.
After last year's slump, Belgian pig farmers increased their herds again by 2.2% to 6.2 million animals in 2020, the best result in five years. Thanks to a contingency plan, the Belgian meat industry was steered relatively safely through the pandemic, exceeding the previous year's slaughter figures by four percent at 11.15 million pigs. As a result of higher slaughter weights, pork production actually climbed 5.8% to 1.1 million t. This is the latest information from the Flanders Agricultural Marketing Board (Vlam).
Due to the high degree of self-sufficiency of 220%, the Belgian pork industry is strongly export-oriented. Despite the Corona pandemic and ASF status, 792,276 t of pork passed the Belgian borders, the bureau explains. That was 2.1% more than a year ago.
Exactly 90%of the export volumes, or 714,739 t, are sold in intra-Community trade, according to Vlam. The ranking of the most important EU destinations is traditionally headed by Germany. However, the Federal Republic scaled back its import volumes by 8.5% to 208,096 t in the Corona and ASP year 2020. While export volumes to Poland stabilized at around the previous year's level of 195,313 t, exports to the Netherlands recorded growth of almost nine percent to 101,379 t.
On November 20, 2020, the EU Commission declared Belgium free of ASF. One month later, the ASF-free status was confirmed by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Already in advance, some third countries had reopened the way for pork imports due to the regionalization principle. As a result, Belgian third-country exports gained momentum in 2020, rising 7.3% to 77,537 t.
The new third country, the United Kingdom, immediately secured first place in the ranking of the most important third country customers with around 25,700 t. It was followed by Hong Kong with 11,321 t (+14.4%) and the Ivory Coast with 10,112 t (+37%).
In contrast to pig farming, Belgian cattle farming recorded a 1.7% drop to 2.33 million head in 2021, according to the official survey. Some 783,000 cattle were sent to slaughter, down 6.6% compared to 2019 As a result, the amount of beef produced fell 3.5% to 255,000 t.
Belgian meat suppliers sold 158,767 t of beef worldwide in 2020, down 7.6% from the previous year. Nearly 90% of Belgium's foreign trade in beef, or 140,853 t, was accounted for by the EU-27, the agricultural marketing office described. Thus, the volumes in intra-Community trade decreased by an even 10% compared to 2019. Main customer the Netherlands ordered 49,243 t, significantly less goods (-17.2%) than a year ago during the pandemic. At the same time, France's import requirements fell by three percent to 37,210 t. Germany also reduced its volumes, by 9.6% to 24,671 t.
On the other hand, Belgian beef enjoyed growing popularity on third-country markets, with exports up 16.8% to 17,914 t, explains Vlam. The most important customers are the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Great Britain, he adds. The Belgian Meat Office (BMO) within the Vlam organization is responsible for promoting beef and pork abroad.