Belgian produce trade quickly returning to normal following Brussels attacks

Belgian produce trade quickly returning to normal following Brussels attacks

Gill McShane
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Following what the Flanders Agricultural Marketing Board (VLAM) in Belgium describes as “terrifying moments” this week, the country’s fresh produce trade is quickly normalising in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, March 22. Produce Business UK catches up with the associations we visited last month for our report from Belgium

“We are all ok at VLAM,” confirms Leen Guffens, VLAM’s B2B press officer. “There have been very terrifying moments over the past few days, and extra safety measurements in place in areas such as the stations and the borders make us realise there is still a threat.

“But we are carrying on. Panic will not be the solution and fear is not the answer that we want to give. The same goes for our fresh [produce] trade.”

The Brussels-based team headed by Philippe Binard at Freshfel (the European Fresh Produce Association), whose office is based on Rue de Trèves next to the Maelbeek metro where one of the bombs was detonated near the European Commission headquarters, report that they are also all well.

Auctions

According to Veerle Van der Sypt, general secretary at Fresh Trade Belgium, and Philippe Appeltans, secretary of the Belgian Association of Horticultural Cooperatives (VBT), the northern European nation’s fruit and vegetable auctions have not seen any effect on their trade.

Business was reported to be continuing as usual on Wednesday (March 22) at BelOrta – one of the country’s leading produce cooperatives – with buyers filling the auction room that morning.

Airfreight

After Brussels’ Zaventem airport was targeted as part of the attacks, the logistics hub initially closed on Tuesday before freighter flights reportedly resumed on Wednesday, with extra cargo security screening. The passenger terminal remains shut.

“[Belgian produce] exporters quickly found alternative solutions to guarantee their trade with foreign customers,” explains Van der Sypt of Fresh Trade Belgium. “For instance, cargo flights were re-booked to other airports like Schiphol, Frankfurt and Paris. The extra journey between those airports and Belgium is being done by truck.”

“At the moment, there are extra safety checks at the borders, which might cause traffic jams and extra waiting time. Some companies have preferred to ship their products instead of crossing the border and going by the Eurotunnel.”

Appeltans at VBT assures that Belgium’s transport sector is expected to recover quickly. “Cargo planes will normalise soon at Brucargo, so we will only have to consider some extra time at the borders. But, as always, our exporters are the most flexible and ready to cope with this very unusual circumstances.”

Wholesale, foodservice & retail

Belgium’s early morning Mabru wholesale market near Molenbeek in the capital apparently opened as normal on Wednesday after deciding not to close.

Meanwhile, most Brussels-based companies, restaurants and supermarkets were said to be open again on Wednesday after shutting their doors in the immediate aftermath.

Read our recent articles on Belgium’s produce trade:

Belgium targets greater UK trade built on proximity, flexibility and quality

Belgian berry grower-exporters offer to widen complementary supply for UK

Belgian research institute seeks solutions to cross-border vegetable challenges

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