Access To Land

Background

Today Belgium still has only 37,194 farms for a population of 11,239,755. 65 % of these farms are situated in Flanders and the remaining are in the Walloon Region. This distribution reflects the population distribution rather than the difference in terms of land area, as Flanders has more in habitants for less area than Wallonia, making it the most densely populated area in Europe (after the city states). This situation also reflects a difference in the agricultural systems between Flanders and Wallonia. That is to say a more intensive agriculture in Flanders dedicated to soil-less cultivation based on high technologies as well as horticulture, and a more extensive agriculture based on pastures in Wallonia. The differences between Flanders and Wallonia arose historically: initially Flanders had many small farms with low employment compared to Wallonia. After the second world war Flanders made a shift towards high added value farms in order to preserve employment.

Since the second world war there has been a drive for higher food productivity in terms of biomass produced and, consequently rising competition and mechanisation. These processes, among others, had major consequences on farm history in Belgium. Between 1980 and 2014 average farm size has tripled In Belgium: in Flanders from 8.4 ha to 25.5 ha and in Wallonia from 20.8 ha to 55.4 ha. At the same time 60% of the farming jobs have disappeared. Each Belgian farmer now manages more than twice as much land as in 1980. Two thirds of the Belgian farmland is nowadays used for cattle breeding, mainly as pasture-land and fields for cattle feed. Belgian farming has grown into a predominantly exporting sector. This trend is exemplified by the fact that the domestic product (GDP) generated by primary food production in Belgium is 6 times lower than the GDP generated by exports and even 12 times lower if the processing sector is also taken into account.

Though Belgium still has a predominantly family-centred agriculture, the trends of the last decades have also had a significant impact on this feature. An increasing number of workers in farms come from a non-family farming background: from 3.9 % in 1980 to 20 % in 2013. Between 2001 and 2009 the percentage of farm-holders belonging to the family fell under half of the total number of farms.

Belgium still has a long way to go when it comes to organic farming. Only 4.38 % of all Belgian farms have organic certification. Flanders counts 343 organic farms and Wallonia 1287. In Flanders these are mainly vegetable farms and in Wallonia cattle breeding farms.

Belgium
In this section
- Background
- Policy environment
- Resources
- Good Practices