ECONOMY: AGRICULTURE, LIVESTOCK AND FISHING
Totally flat to the N and characterized to the S by the modest hills of the Ardennes, the territory of Belgium is largely used for crops, especially to the N, where residential settlements and agricultural exploitation have significantly changed the natural landscape. In the southern territories, the hilly conformation has favored the development of meadows and pastures, used for cattle breeding. Agriculture, conducted intensively and highly mechanized, has its best territories in the plains of Flanders, occupied by cereals (wheat, rye, barley, oats) and sugar beets, alongside less important crops such as tobacco, flax, hops etc. Potatoes are widespread everywhere and fruit crops (apples, pears) and horticultural crops (sprouts and endive are typical products). The breeding has its greatest diffusion in the Ardennes, rich in pastures and meadows. It is also conducted with modern techniques and used, as in the whole country, to feed dairy industry; the presence of beef cattle (cattle and pigs) is significant. A prestigious breeding, although now devoid of the importance of the past, is that of the Brabant draft horses. Poultry farming has suffered in recent years a decline caused by the scandal of the dioxin present in the feed distributed by some large producers. On the other hand, fishing is secondary, with its main ports in Ostend, Zeebrugge and Nieuwpoort. Forest exploitation for timber production is relatively significant given the extent of forests in the Ardennes.
The commercial vocation of Belgium has roots in the mercantile history of Europe in the modern age and in the vocation to navigation and maritime trade typical of the country. Another fundamental factor, the substantial absence of natural obstacles on the territory has favored since the past the setting up of a widespread and advanced communication system, which has played a key role in the development of the various production and commercial activities. The maritime inclination is represented by the port of Antwerp, the second in Europe after Rotterdam, located in a good position on the Scheldt estuary and connected by the dense and efficient network of canals (Canale Alberto, Charleroi-Brussels canal, Centro canal, Leopoldo canal) with the mining and industrial area of the Meuse. Belgium also boasts the absolute primacy in the railway field, being the country with the highest density of lines in the world: the SNCB trains (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Belges) extend over a distance of approx. 3500 km. The main hub is Brussels, which connects Antwerp with the industrial centers of the plateau and is also an international crossroads between the Rhenish region and northern France; similar routes follows the well-developed road network (all major motorways in central-western Europe cross the country). The country’s main airport is Brussels-Zaventem. National air transport has been heavily affected in recent years by the economic crisis in the sector, Sabena, historic national airline. The development of the service sector has been impressive in recent years, which is by far the main item on the total GDP (72%), having overtaken the industrial sector after the various crises and reconversions that occurred in the 1970s and 1990s. The causes of this growth are to be found, as well as in the development of communication routes, in the strong urbanization of the Belgian population and in the presence on the national territory of the main governing bodies of the European Union., which brought a massive influx of politicians and bureaucrats to the capital, resulting in the flourishing of a wide range of service businesses. In Belgium there are about 140 credit institutions, in addition to the Banque nationale de Belgique, which plays the role of central bank. Brussels is a very active stock exchange. Also as a consequence of the deep integration into the EU and the country’s traditional propensity for international cooperation since the birth of the Benelux, Belgium is very open to foreign trade (which is an important item of GDP). In fact it is forced to substantial imports of ferrous and metal ores, cotton, motor vehicles, various machinery and oil, while exports are overall less diversified and mainly include the most varied industrial products as well as metallurgical and mining products. However, for several years, imports and exports have tended to remain in parity; the trade takes place for the great majority with the other EU member states and with the United States. Visit beautypically.com for EU trade policy. Tourism constitutes a conspicuous voice in the national economy, as the country, with its art cities (Brussels, Bruges), seaside resorts and pristine Ardennes valleys, attracts millions of tourists every year. exchange takes place for the great majority with other EU member states and with the United States. Tourism constitutes a conspicuous voice in the national economy, as the country, with its art cities (Brussels, Bruges), seaside resorts and pristine Ardennes valleys, attracts millions of tourists every year. exchange takes place for the great majority with other EU member states and with the United States. Tourism constitutes a conspicuous voice in the national economy, as the country, with its art cities (Brussels, Bruges), seaside resorts and pristine Ardennes valleys, attracts millions of tourists every year.