b'Kristiaan van LaeckeHow a country came togetherTHE BENEFITS OF MERGING THE BELGIAN SEED ASSOCIATIONS.BY: KRISTIAAN VAN LAECKEAGRICULTURE IN BELGIUM vation. The challenges for agriculture are the liv-WHY IT MATTERS With 11.5 million people in a small area, Belgiumability of farms/companies, space for agriculture Seed@Bel wasis one of the most densely populated countries ofin an urban environment, circular agriculture, baptized in AprilEurope. Belgium has three official languages andclimate change and healthy and sustainable food 2019. This Belgiana rather complex political structure, with impor- (production). association is thetant differences in agriculture and agricultural fruit of a super crosspolicy between the north (Flanders) and the southTHE BELGIAN SEED BUSINESSbetween two parents(Wallonia). Flemish farms (23,361) are quite smallBelgian seed companies differ greatly in nature and with a long tradition(average 26.5 ha), but their intensive managementstructure. More than half of them are part of an and an excellentmakes them highly productive (potatoes, livestockinternational seed company. The remaining com-reputation in theand vegetables) and export oriented. In Wallonia,panies are locally anchored, with either a family Belgian seed sector.the farms (12,739) are bigger (average 57.6 ha) andstructure or a cooperative structure. Of the 28 The father, ASSINSEL,more extensively run. The focus there is on localBelgian companies, 22 are located in Flanders. represented thefood sales, extensive agriculture and organic crops.The most important global seed companies are also plant breeders. TheThe Belgian climate is optimal for many differ- prominent in the Belgian market, with their local mother, SEMZABEL,ent crops: both summer and winter are mild, andimportance growing markedly in recent years. In represented theprecipitation is spread throughout the year. Fertile2017, 400 people were employed in the seed sector seed traders.agricultural soils, from clay to loam to sand, coverin Belgium. Although that number has stayed stable Kristiaan Van44% of Belgium. Nearly two-thirds of these soils arein recent years, it is increasingly dependent on the Laecke, Head ofcultivated, with a bit over one-third as permanentpresence or absence of a research infrastructure the Plant Sciencesgrassland. The main crops are cereals, cultivatedfrom international companies in our country.Unit of Flanderson about 40% of the agricultural land. Fodder cropsThe seed sector had a turnover of around Research Institute forcome in second. Industrial crops like sugar beet or140 million euros in 2017. The main subsectors Agriculture, Fisheriespotato account for 20%. Vegetables, fruit and orna- are vegetable seeds (30% of sales, mainly leeks, and Food (ILVO) andmentals (10%) come last but not least - they accounttomatoes, lettuce, chicory, and cabbages), corn Secretary-General offor a whopping half of the total economic value(23%), cereals (12%, mainly wheat), sugar beet the new association,from plant production. The most important crops(12%) and grass (15%), for both professional and shares his views onare peas, beans, carrots, leek, cauliflower, spinach,private use. The use of grasses and cruciferous Belgian agriculture,pear and apple, and trees and shrubs.plants and their complexity has clearly increased the Belgian seedBelgian agriculture is small but mighty: thesince 2015 as a result of the implementation of the business and whatsector exports six times more than its share in thegreening measures in the context of the European this merger meansgross national product. Nevertheless, the sectoragricultural policy.for the future of thehas changed dramatically over the last 35 years.The acreage of seed production in Belgium is Belgian seed trade. Two-thirds of the farmers have stopped farming.relatively small: 14,300 ha in 2018 (8,243 ha cere-The remaining farms have at least doubled in size.als; 3,420 ha grasses and fodder crops; 2,660 ha Intensive agriculture is the norm: common yieldsflax). Major investments have been made in the are 10 t/ha for wheat, 80 t/ha for sugar beet andseed sector in recent years. A new breeding site 50 t/ha for potato. Agriculture is characterized bywas opened in 2017, representing an estimated scaling up, specialization, broadening and inno- investment of 10 million euros.24IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'