The federation of Belgian milk producers numbers milk cows in Belgium at over 530,000. In 2020, Belgium exported around €4 billion of dairy products worldwide. 68% of exports are sold to EU Member States, with the rest going to third countries such as the United Kingdom, Algeria, China, and Indonesia.
For comparison, figures from Italian Dairy Economic Consulting firm CLAL and Eurostat show that France produced over 244 million litres of drinking milk in the same period. In France, that accounts for around 3.6 litres per person each month. In Belgium, this is 4.8 litres per person.
Last year, Belgium was the 9th largest milk producer in the EU and production continues to increase. Since 2020, there has been a 45% increase in the processing of milk, compared to 2010.
The majority of production (54.8%) was semi-skimmed milk, which remains a favourite of Belgium consumers. Whole milk represented 35.7% of total production, skimmed 6.4%, and buttermilk 3.1%.
Belgium also produces large quantities of flavoured milk each month. 17.8 million litres of chocolate flavoured milk drinks were produced in January alone, as well as 20.3 million litres of cream, 29 million litres of fermented milk (kefir) and yoghurt.
One of Belgium’s most recognisable exports is cheese, which is often made in monasteries and eaten alongside locally brewed beer. In total, 8.957 tonnes of cheese and 7,381 tonnes of butter were produced in just one month this year.
So much is the international love for Belgian cheese, even astronauts cannot do without it. On 19 April, for the second time, American astronaut Shannon Walker made an order for her favourite Belgian cheeses, OG Kristal and Old Farmdale made by ‘t Groendal in Rumbeke, to be blasted up to space for her to enjoy onboard the International Space Station (ISS).