Old documents show that a Belgian official in Mons received potatoes as a gift from a friend of the Vatican ambassador in 1587 (the following year, he sent samples on to a botanist in Vienna). Within a century the Belgians had made a landmark contribution to potato development, with the invention - they claim - of french fries.
In 2012, Belgium ranked No. 23 among the world's potato producing countries, with an output of just over 2.9 million tonnes. Thanks to an average yields of 42 tonnes per hectare (2005), the potato is the country's main food crop, even though the cultivated area is less than 5 percent of total farmland.
Less than 15 percent of Belgian potatoes are eaten fresh - about 86 percent are processed into crisps, frozen fries, starch and other products. In 2006, the country exported more than one million tonnes of processed potatoes and 21 000 tonnes of seed potatoes. It also imported more than 1.2 million tonnes of fresh potatoes and 140 000 tonnes of potato products, mainly from France, Germany and the Netherlands. (Source: International Year of the Potato)