The Belgian economic mission, presided by Her Royal Highness princess Astrid included a significant representation of the Belgian potato sector, as part of a large delegation of the Belgian Food sector under the banner 'Food.be small country, great food'
Rapid increase of the export of Frozen Belgian Fries to Mexico
Belgium is currently the largest exporter of frozen potato products in the world, taking over this role from their neighbour the Netherlands about two years ago.
Export of Belgian frozen potato products to Mexico, a country traditionally oriented towards suppliers in the United States and Canada, is growing rapidly.
Belgium is now the third largest supplier of frozen fries to Mexico, as the import increased last year by 282% to about 10.000 tons.
Belgian potato processors want to continue to invest in this growing export market, especially now the current NAFTA agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada will be replaced by an updated agreement, with still unclear impact on the trade relationships between Mexico and the United States.
Belgapom is also investigating the phytosanitary situation, looking at the potential export of fresh potatoes to Mexico. After all, Mexico only produces 65% of its annual potato consumption.
Successful Belgapom Press Event
Belgapom organized a well attended event for the Mexican press in cooperation with Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT). The event was attended by the Belgian ambassador in Mexico, Antoine Evrard, as well as by Pierre-Yves Jeholet, Vice-President of the Walloon Government and Minister of Economy, Industry, Research, Innovation and Phillipe Muyters, Minister of Commerce of Flanders.
Introduced by Antoine Evrard, Phillipe Muyters, Minister of Commerce of Flanders, described how the Belgian potato chain combines a rich tradition with cooperation and a continuous effort to foster innovation.
He illustrated this with the cooperation of companies associated with Belgapom and the initiative Flanders Food, that spawned numerous innovative research projects. And in a similar way several corporate projects are ongoing with the Wallonian association Wagralim.
The sector sees a future in Artifical Intelligence, illustrated for example with the WatchIt Grow project led by VITO. Not only follows this project potato fields using satellite imaging, the dataset will also serve as framework that will include cultivation advice and disease models.
This should support the sustainable potato production in Belgium, centrally located in the European potato production region.
Also the new pilot facility in Kortrijk as part of the Interreg project Veg-I-Tec should stimulate process and product innovation in the potato and vegetable processing sector.
James Bint, the ambassador of the Belgian Fries visits Mexico
Romain Cools, general secretary of Belgapom offered an overview of the Belgian Potato Processing Chain, with an emphasis on the typical Belgian culture of tiny restaurants offering almost exclusively Belgian Fries.
The authentic way of selling fries - officially recognized as a national cultural heritage - combined with the dynamic of the entire chain, form the pillars of this uniquely Belgian industry.
'Selfie with James Bint' From left to Right: Claire Tillekaerts, a representative of Flanders Invetment and Trade (FIT), Romain Cools, secretary general of Belgapom and Kris Peeters, Minister of Economy and Employment
A group of about twenty journalists and bloggers tried it out and enjoyed together with other guests Belgian Fries, served in an authentic paper cone topped with a Mexican Chipotle Sauce.
To complete the Belgian experience they were served with cold Belgian beer and Belgian Chocolates, all under the watchful eye of the mascot for Belgian Fries, James Bint.
The real 'Papas Fritas Belgas' were an obvious success
Finally, the closing event in the historic setting of the Colegio de San Idefolso in the Centro Historico of Mexico City could not be completed without some Belgian Fries and a selfie with James Bint!