More greenhouse strawberries being grown in Belgium

In 2020, the Belgian strawberry acreage shrank by 2.1%. That is mainly due to a decrease in open field cultivation. The area of covered farming increased by 12%. That is according to the Belgian statistical office, Statbel's, final figures. Among other greenhouse crops, the lettuce acreage has noticeably declined.

More covered strawberries
According to Stabel, last year, strawberries were grown in 610 hectares of greenhouses. Statbel's final figures show a clear shift towards covered strawberry cultivation in recent years. That trend should continue in 2021. That was already apparent from plot declaration figures from Flanders for 2021. These showed a 406-hectare area of permanently covered greenhouse cultivation.

That's less than in 2020. That's because Statbel has specific criteria for covered farming. It includes all cultivation in greenhouses or well-protected installations. These must be built from glass or plastic. They can be soft or hard, heated or not. And you must be able to stand up in them.

There's not only more covered, greenhouse farming. Year-round strawberry cultivation is also on the rise. Growers use lighting for this. Statbel doesn't provide figures for the area under lights.

Less lettuce acreage in 2020
Most greenhouse vegetable acreages show an increase. That's what Stabel's 2020 vs. 2019 figures indicate. Except for lettuce heads and endive. The first was down ten hectares in 2020 and good for 131 hectares. Endive's acreage fell by four hectares. There were ten hectares of this last year.

In contrast, other lettuce varieties (+ 7 ha) and lamb's lettuce (also +7 ha) acreage rose. This joint 14 hectares equal the lettuce head and endive decline. You can't tell from the figures whether this was a one-to-one change.

Tomato acreage didn't increase
It was determined that Flanders' tomato acreage decreased. That's for the first time in years. Flanders has, by far, the most greenhouses in Belgium. This conclusion was based on 2021 plot declaration figures. Compared to 2020, there should be ten hectares less. That, while from 2019 to 2020, the area still increased by 40 hectares. The Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus could be to blame.

There are more than 601 hectares of tomatoes being grown in Flanders in 2021. Statbel assumes 594 hectares for 2020. The plot declaration showed 610+ hectares in 2020. Based on Statbel's figure, the area hasn't decreased but increased by seven hectares. The acreage increase, as in 2019 and 2020, has clearly stalled in 2021. But the final Statbel figures won't officially show this until August 2022.

More greenhouses in Belgium
In Belgium, the total greenhouse fruit and vegetable cultivation acreage has increased by 175 hectares. That's according to Statbel figures. There are 65 more hectares of fruit and 110 of vegetables. The total greenhouse cultivation area, including ornamental horticulture, came to 2,472 hectares. That's 19 hectares more than in 2019.

This table shows the 2020 greenhouse cultivation acreage. It's based on the Statbel figures and rounded off to whole numbers.

Crop Area
Tomatoes 594
Bell peppers 102
Cucumber 50
Courgettes 60
Aubergine 25
Lettuce heads 131
Lamb's lettuce 36
Other lettuce varieties  51
Endive 10
White Celery 2
Green Celery 70
Parsley 6
Other culinary herbs 18
Cauliflower 9
Beans 5
Radishes 4
Other vegetables 130
Grapes 2
Berries 102
Strawberries 610
Other fruits 33

Green Celery
The green celery acreage is noteworthy. This amounted to only 17 hectares in 2019, according to Statbel figures. The plot declaration for 2021 in Flanders shows an area of 78 hectares. That is - as far as specified - a good five hectares of permanently covered greenhouse cultivation in 2021.

You can see all the Statbel figures (in Dutch) here.

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