Challenges for Flemish Agriculture after 2020

30 - 04 - 2014

Agriculture is constantly facing new developments and challenges. Farmers try to cope with these as best they can. It is useful to take a more objective view when considering the potential long-term challenges.

The department of Agriculture and Fisheries is aiming to promote a debate in order to anticipate future developments, whether it is to discuss averting threats or making the most of opportunities. Horizon 2020 was used as reference point. This exploration has been approached from various perspectives. A summary of some of their observations follows below:

Social changes

Because society will age considerably, we can expect qualitative changes in food supply such as different methods of preparing food and in smaller portions.

Society’s changing views on how farmers as well as fruit and vegetable growers produce [their goods] and the closer links between urban and rural areas are affecting the sector’s progress. Environmentally responsible production is necessary. Indicators measuring evolution show that animal welfare and animal disease control are sensitive issues. This has consequences for the use of water, fertilizers and energy, the contribution to biodiversity and the handling of animals.

Technological changes

It is generally estimated that further productivity gains can be achieved through technical and technological improvements, not least in terms of labour productivity.

Tightening rules on food safety

Healthy food is becoming more and more important and a growing group of consumers is taking sustainability into account. These food trends present opportunities for agriculture, the food industry and the food trade. Pomuni is working together with Belgapom to set up sustainability reporting.

The loss of market protection as a result of liberalisation has had a severe impact on most European agricultural producers. Farmers will have to operate more as independent entrepreneurs, be seen as more innovative and protect themselves against larger risks and price fluctuations.

Logistical changes

It is expected that a great deal of additional gains can still be made in the fields of logistics and supply chain. There is also the potential for complementarity across sectors in terms of utilisation of resources, energy, labour, capital, logistics, etc.