Belgian tomatoes

Greenhouse vegetables are doing well in Belgium, according to Nele Van Avermaet, product manager for fruit and vegetables at VLAM, Flanders' Agricultural Marketing Board.

Van Avermaet puts this success down to Belgian growers' state-of-the-art cultivation techniques, their expansion of lighted winter cultivation, smooth sales via the auction system and an enviably central location in Europe.

In 2019, she said, this successful formula was reflected in strong growth figures for tomatoes offered at the auctions within LAVA, BelOrta, Hoogstraten and REO Veiling.

'Total tomato production shows remarkable growth,' she said. 'This development is partly due to the fact that the area of lighted tomato cultivation has also increased. The expansion of the acreage in combination with increased winter production has led to a sharp increase in the supply of tomatoes at the Belgian auctions.'

According to VBT, the Belgian association of horticultural cooperatives, Belgian tomato production expanded to 543ha in 2019, up from 505ha in 2017, with volumes climbing from 255,960 tonnes to 270,135 tonnes.

Van Avermaet added that exports were also on the increase, rising to 250,692 tonnes between January and November 2020, compared with 212,488 tonnes for the same period in 2018.

'Our tomatoes go mainly to neighbouring countries, but our southern European neighbours, Spain and Italy, are also demanding more and more Belgian tomatoes,' she revealed. 'Exports to the UK are equally on the rise.'