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Farmer protests disrupt supply chain of Belgian retailer Colruyt

A large supermarket chain in Belgium, Colruyt, has been impacted by farmers who are blocking the supermarket’s distribution centres. Although not confirmed, supermarket chain Lidl may also be impacted. The blockades have led to disruptions in the supply chain.

Farmers across numerous European countries have taken to the streets and blocked roads and highways to voice their discontent about pay, taxes and green rules as well as unfair competition from abroad.

Centres located in Ollignies, Ghislenghien and Halle in central western Belgium, which supply Colruyt's Belgian shops with fresh and frozen products, dry food, water and drinks, were no longer accessible.

Colruyt said in a statement that "At the moment, stock is still available. However, it is inevitable that products will eventually be missing from the shelves. It added that it understood farmers' concerns but did not see blockades as a solution.”

Colruyt Group operates in food and non-food sectors in Belgium, France and Luxembourg, with more than 700 owned stores and approximately 580 affiliated outlets and employs more than 32,000 employees across the markets it operates in. Its food retail unit operating in Belgium and Luxembourg generated 3.54 billion euros of revenue in the first half of its shifted 2023-2024 financial year.

Colruyt Group would also like to take the opportunity to put somethings in perspective. In the flood of reporting, incorrect information has crept in from time to time. Mainly misunderstandings about own farmland and the percentage of local product purchased.

The supermarket chain today owns 570 hectares of farmland in Belgium, about 400 of which are in Wallonia. Wallonia has some 750,000 hectares of farmland in total. Only 0.05% of the available land in the south of our country is owned by Colruyt Group. Out of a total Belgian agricultural area of 1.3 million hectares, the retailer is an even smaller player.

Confusing reports have also appeared in recent days around selling local product, potentially raising questions. Colruyt Group has long been committed to as much local sourcing as possible and is very successful in doing so for quite a few categories. An overview:

  • Meat, milk, eggs almost 100% Belgian: for meat, we focus on Belgian as much as possible: all our pork, beef and veal is 99% Belgian, as is the chicken we sell in our shops.
  • Fruit and vegetables: maximum Belgian origin: 75% of our vegetables come from Belgium. Some vegetables we offer all year round at the request of our customers, whereas Belgian product is not available all year round. When the Belgian season ends, we import from other European countries. For tomatoes, we are at 80% Belgian. Sweet potatoes are a vegetable that we offer almost year-round from Belgium, whereas they used to be 100% imported. For fruit, too, we opt for local products as much as possible. Eighty-seven per cent of our apples and pears are Belgian. We boost the share of Belgian fruit by developing new varieties in cooperation with local growers (our Magic Star) and by trying out new, sometimes exotic, crops in Belgium (our Belgian melons).
  • Cooperation with 6,000 Belgian farms: What we can buy in Belgium, from the Belgian agricultural sector, we buy in Belgium. That applies to vegetables, fruit, meat, milk.

Source: Reuters, Colruyt

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