Fevia, the organisation of Belgian food producers says more and more countries are showing an interest in Belgian food products: the US, Canada, China and South Korea are becoming increasingly important for our exports. Trade agreements underpinned by trade missions have paved the way.
The rise in exports created an additional 2,000 jobs in the Belgian food industry last year, a rise of 2.2%. Many companies have also made significant investments, especially in automation. Italy’s Ferrero invested over 100 million euros in its Belgian plant recently.
Companies even struggle to fill jobs. On average there are some 1500 vacancies in the Belgian food industry. Many of the new jobs require highly skilled workers and people with the right skills are not always readily available.
If Belgian products are a success abroad, the industry seems to be facing an uphill struggle at home with turnover down 5.3% last year. More and more Belgians are shopping abroad more and more often. Stores in border regions try to entice Belgian custom. In France supermarkets employ Dutch-speaking check-out staff and advertise in Belgium.
Worryingly Belgian products are sometimes more expensive here than abroad as a result of different VAT rates, but the industry identifies the plethora of taxes as the real issue. It is asking the next Flemish government to ensure Belgian products aren’t priced out of the market.