Areas of spring cereals and grain maize rise, livestock numbers fall

Agriculture & fishery
Areas of spring cereals and grain maize rise, livestock numbers fall

Provisional agricultural results 2022

According to the provisional agricultural statistics for 2022, the utilised agricultural area in Belgium remained stable compared to 2021. These results were obtained by coupling administrative data for crops, cattle and pigs to Statbel’s agricultural register.

The surface area of winter cereals (winter wheat, spelt and triticale), excluding winter barley, had fallen sharply due to the wet autumn of 2021. The increase in winter barley area, which has a slightly earlier sowing date than the other winter cereals, largely offset the decline in the other winter cereals. The final decline in winter cereals was only -0.4% (-1,031 ha).

The surface area of spring cereals (spring wheat and spring barley) and grain maize has increased by +38.8% (or +20,773 ha) in 2022, due to the increase in cereal prices caused by the war in Ukraine.

From 2022, the 'other cereals' section includes only those not previously listed, such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum and millet and mixes of only cereals. This explains the sharp drop in figures in this section. Mixes of cereals and leguminous crops have been placed under the section 'dry pulses' since 2022.

The decrease in the area of sugar beet continued again in 2022 (-3.2% or -1,764 ha). The decrease is partly offset by the increase in the area of chicory (+ 9.3% or + 907 ha).

After the decrease in potato area in 2021, the area increased by +2.6% (or +2,295 ha) in 2022.

However, the area remained below the level of 2020.

Due to high grain prices, part of the maize was sown as grain maize and consequently the green maize area fell (-3.2% or -5,778 ha).

The Belgian cattle population has further decreased by -4.8% in May 2022 compared to May 2021 to 2.24 million animals. The decline occurred in all age categories and was greatest among cattle under 1 year old (-7.8% or -55,815 animals). This suggests that cattle numbers will continue to decline.

A decline was particularly noticeable in cattle for meat production and suckler cows. This is due to very high feed prices compared to meat prices, which in turn were 10% higher than May 2021. Consequently, the higher meat price proved insufficient to offset feed costs.

Despite favourable milk prices, the number of dairy cows fell by -2.2% or -12,075 animals compared to 2021.

The pig population has decreased by -4.9% (- 299,110 animals) in May 2022 compared to May 2021. The decline occurred in both fattening pigs and breeding pigs.

The total number of fattening pigs fell by -5.5% (or -226,814 animals). The increase in fattening pigs with a live weight over 110 kg would be partly explained by the sharp rise in meat prices in March 2022. These pigs were kept longer on the farm.

High feed prices are probably behind the decline of fattening pigs with a live weight of 50 to 110 kg.

The number of breeding pigs fell by -5.8% (or -23,045 animals) between May 2021 and 2022. The decrease occurred mainly in covered sows (-6.9% or -22,443 animals), while the number of non-covered sows remained stable compared to May 2021. The pig population is also likely to continue to decline.