Growers in Belgium all hoping Brexit talks will bear fruit

Belgium fruit production, December 2020.
Belgium fruit production, December 2020. Copyright Euronews/Jack Parrock
By Jack Parrock
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Belgium's fruit sector is worried about Brexit deal or no deal. Fruit exports make up over 5 per cent of the country's agricultural output. They say the main problem is uncertainty.

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In an auction room at the Belgium Fruit Valley, the nation's fruit producers are worried that new tariffs could skew prices - both upwards and downwards.

"Traditionally we have been exporting outside of the EU as well so we are used, as an organisation, to deal with those kinds of specifications. It's just that in relation to the UK, we see a shift of balance," says Marc Evrard, Commercial Director of Belgium Fruit Valley.

They export many different types of fruit, but pears are the big one here - and 8 per cent are destined for Britain.

While the producers are concerned about quantities and prices, they say that in a No Deal scenario, one of their main worries is about hiccups in the supply chain, and much like the packing production line, one issue can throw the whole thing out of sync.

A No Deal could result in blockages on both sides of the channel while authorities check whether duties on fruit like this have been paid by the British firms importing it.

The orchards here are closed off for winter but Belgian economists are warning that by the time they're in fruit again, this economy will have had to adapt.

"It's not just because we're close to the UK, as a small economy and therefore we ship a lot of stuff directly, it's also what we ship indirectly through the European value chains," says Hylke Vandenbussche, Professor of International Economics at the University of Leuven, "and I think that's an important message that I think now on the European side, is well understood."

Many of the lorries leaving the fruit site in St Truiden are heading to Calais to cross the channel - they still don't know how freely they'll be able to do that in the new year.

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