Press Releases Belgian Presidency: European agriculture ministers gathered in Limburg to work on food as strategic sector for Europe

Belgian Presidency: European agriculture ministers gathered in Limburg to work on food as strategic sector for Europe

The Belgian federal and regional agriculture ministers invited their European colleagues to Belgium to discuss food, and especially proteins, as a strategic sector for the future of Europe. The European Union is determined to achieve more open strategic autonomy in important policy areas. Today’s context is characterised by farmers protests and geopolitical, as well as economic, shifts. Food sovereignty becomes thus even more important. The ministers gathered in the province of Limburg in an informal setting. Besides the plenary meeting on Tuesday, the program included interregional site visits and meals with local products.

Belgium’s Federal Minister for Agriculture: “Strategic autonomy in agriculture is one of Belgium’s priorities for its presidency of the Agrifish Council, so it was important to continue these discussions. For the Belgian Presidency, one of the solutions envisaged is European protein production for the animal sector. It is important to guarantee a form of agriculture that is competitive and sustainable in the full sense of the term, meaning productive, remunerative for farmers and whose watchword is nutritional quality, while preserving the environment. Recent geopolitical conflicts have also demonstrated the importance of maintaining a high level of food security. To achieve this, we need to encourage innovation in the face of the major challenges facing agriculture”.

Walloon Minister for Agriculture : “Food security and sovereignty are key aspects of our agricultural policy. The current crisis reminds us of the urgent need to act in order to strengthen our food sovereignty and to guarantee a secure supply for all, as well as an income for our farmers. Working towards a European protein strategy and strengthening our ability to feed our citizens, will enable us to consolidate our economic independence”.

Flemish Minister for Agriculture: “Our farmers are strategic, agriculture is strategic. Today more than ever we need to talk about how to ensure the strategic position of our agriculture and to give our farmers the right tools to keep their strategic position. That’s why it’s an honour to invite my fellow agriculture ministers here in Limburg to showcase our best practises, specifically in the food sector, and to discuss how we can continue to support our farmers, especially in these challenging times”.


Why work on food and proteins as strategic elements for the future of Europe?

Especially in the context of uncertainties and geopolitical tensions, the European Union wants to act more independently in strategic important policy areas. Food can be considered one of these strategic interests, with proteins as a crucial part of it.

Today, Europe (heavily) relies on imports for its plant protein sources, for both animal and human consumption. This dependence on imports has not only an economic, but also a significant environmental, climate (including through land-use change in the country of origin) and health impact. For these reasons, more open strategic autonomy on proteins at European level is desirable. This cannot be achieved at Member States level but should be attained and coordinated at European level. The European Union needs a more strategic approach towards food policy.

Our own farmers can also benefit from the production of plant (or new) proteins as an alternative source of revenue. To this end, it is crucial to approach the whole protein chain in relevant (European, national and regional) policy strategies with a view to add value to each link in the chain, while ensuring the level playing field both intra-EU and with EU trading partners.

The European agricultural ministers worked on finding answers to these questions. This informal meeting added knowledge and input to the future European, national and regional food and protein strategies. The ministers wanted to seize the opportunities for the EU, the farmer, the environment, climate and health: they consider a system-wide and interdisciplinary approach as crucial in getting there. This also means looking at the demand for proteins. After all, everything starts with the (future) demand by the consumer, after which the whole value chain builds on this demand to provide a sufficient supply.

The preliminary conclusions of the meeting, that will certainly be lead to other steps, are:

  • Ensuring strategic autonomy in the production of proteins is essential and measures will need to be taken to increase the EU’s independence in this sector.
  • It will be necessary to diversify the sources of the proteins, to promote production in Europe and to derive more value from the by-products.
  • The challenges will need to be met in a cross-cutting and cross-sectoral way, from the producers to the consumers.
  • Whether engaged in the production of vegetable or animal protein, it will also be crucial to ensure that the protein-producing sectors in Europe are able to benefit from commercially viable outlets for their products.
  • Research and innovation will also play a key role in the development of the sector.
  • Coupled aid will form an incentive that will help develop the cultivation of vegetable proteins in relation to the cultivation of cereals.

Next to the meeting itself, the EU ministers had a taste of what Belgium has to offer. Good food and good drinks are a part of this, so several local products were tasted. Where possible, the local producers were present to explain their food process and talk with the European visitors. Of course the rural landscape of both the Flemish as the Walloon part were visited and it was the right time: the blossoms were working their magic. The European ministers visited a farm with the typical Belgian blue beef, saw the fruit trees blossom in the beautiful Haspengouw landscape and visited the Fruit research center, pcfruit, which displayed its newest innovations.

The last months, we have seen large farmers protests in most European countries, also in Belgium. All three Belgian ministers value the voice of farmers a lot. Therefore a meeting was planned on Tuesday morning, with the farmers organisations By hearing their needs again, both the Belgian presidency and the European Commission could work towards answers on the farmers needs during the ministers meeting.

Nicolas Fierens Gevaert, Spokesperson – porte-parole – woordvoerder

TEL: +32 471 44 06 04


Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Rue des Petits Carmes / Karmelietenstraat 15
Brussels 1000 – Belgium


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