As the FIFA World Cup enters into the semi-finals this week, four European nations remain in the tournament. Currently, one of the favorites is Belgium, whose best World Cup performance was fourth place in 1986. The country is well-known for its agricultural production and foodstuff exports. Located in northwestern Europe, Belgium is a small country with a total territory of 30.528 square kilometers, which is about the same size as Maryland. The country is dominated by flat coastal plains, rolling hills, and some mountains throughout the southeast as well as 66 kilometers of coastline. Likewise, Belgium has a total population of 11.5 million citizens, 98% of which live in an urban setting, notably the capital city of Brussels with 2.1 million inhabitants. The national annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about US$526 billion (PPP) and the country has experienced positive economic growth in recent years. The Belgian economy is divided into 1% agriculture, 22% manufacturing, and 77% services. Similarly, it is estimated that the agricultural industry employs 2% of the national labor force, while manufacturing employs 19% and services employ another 79%. Meanwhile, the agriculture industry utilizes 45% of the national territory, while another 22% is forested.
European Agribusiness and International Trade
In terms of natural resources, Belgium has silica sand, carbonates, and arable land. Within manufacturing, the national industry is focused on engineering tools, metal products, motor vehicles, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food, beverages, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, base metals, textiles, glass, and petroleum. Simultaneously, Belgium’s agricultural industry has as main products sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco, beef, veal, pork, and milk. During 2016, together with its small neighbor the Duchy of Luxembourg, Belgium imported US$381 billion worth of goods and exported US$324 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of US$56 billion. Furthermore, that same year, the main export of Belgium and Luxembourg, representing 6.9% or US$22.4 billion of the country’s total, were cars. On the other hand, the country’s main import, representing 8.1% or US$30.9 billion of all international purchases, were also cars. In terms of trade, both Belgium and Luxembourg belong to the European Union and use the Euro as their national currency. Meanwhile, their main trading partners are Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In recent years, the daily average per capita protein intake of animal origin amongst the Belgian population has been 57 grams. Simultaneously, land distribution and output in the country have evolved throughout the last half century. Back in 1961, permanent pastures and meadows in Belgium covered 507.000 hectares, while arable land covered 862.000 hectares and permanent crops accounted for 20.600 hectares. More recently, by 2015, permanent pastures and meadows had decreased slightly to 476.000 hectares, while arable land represented 829.500 hectares and permanent crops covered 22.500 hectares. Likewise, in 2000, the cereals market in Belgium utilized 313.300 hectares of land and yielded approximately 2.5 million metric tons annually. Finally, by 2016, the country devoted about 327.500 hectares of land to cereals production and yielded almost 2.2 million metric tons.