AGRICULTURE | Kustportaal


Agriculture plays an important economic role in the coastal zone and, from a historical perspective, forms the basis of land reclamation. However, due to the phenomenon of eutrophication, agriculture also has an inseparable but harmful connection with the sea. The removal of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus causes large-scale algal blooms, leading to the destruction of habitat and the impoverishment of biodiversity. The problem of eutrophication is addressed at European level by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Under the umbrella of the WFD, the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EC) aims to reduce the runoff of nitrates from agriculture. At the Flemish level, this directive has a translation into the Manure Decree, which in turn has a practical translation into the Manure Action Plan (MAP) (website VLM).

Conversely, the sea also has an effect on the hinterland through salinisation of the soil. This phenomenon is expected to play an increasing role in the light of global warming and its effects on hydrology. The problems were recently mapped by the Topsoil project of VMM, in which a detailed description was made of the fresh-salt water balance in the entire coastal and polder region. The results show that the fresh saltwater balance for groundwater in the coastal and polder regions is relatively stable for the time being. The salinisation data is currently availble in the geoviewer within the Climate theme.

In the Belgian coastal and hinterland municipalities 2,049 farms are active (2018). These farms provide employment to nearly 4,000 people and generate a turnover of about 502 million euro. The specialisation of these farms primarily concerns arable farming, cattle and cages (pigs and poultry). Both the number of farms as the number of employees is in decline since the nineties. The utilised agricultural area in the coastal zone has a total surface area of 70,449 ha (2018), which comprises 11.4% of the utilised agricultural area in Flanders (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on the basis of FPS Economy - Statbel).

More info see theme text ‘Agriculture’ of the Compendium for Coast and Sea and the publication CoastalINsight2019 (Dutch).


Agricultural areas
Socio-economy agriculture