A little over 171 million hectares of land in the European Union (EU) were used for agricultural production in 2016 – about 40% of the EU’s total land area. This supported about 10.3 million farms and farm managers. Although numerous, most of the EU’s farms were small in nature, two-thirds being less than 5 hectares (ha) in size. In contrast, the 3% of EU farms of 100 ha or more in size worked over half of the EU’s utilised agricultural area. Only 11% of farm managers in the EU were younger than 40 years old, in contrast to one third (32%) who were 65 years of age or older.
This information, published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, comes from provisional results for the 2016 EU Farm Structure Survey and is the latest snapshot available.
Romania has one third of the EU’s farms but they tend to be small in size
One third of the EU’s farms were located in Romania in 2016 (33%), another third being found in Poland (14%), Italy (10%, 2013) and Spain (9%).
Although numerous, most of the EU’s farms were small in nature; 65% of EU farms were less than 5 ha in size. However, the 7% of farms that were of 50 ha or more in size worked a little over two-thirds (68%) of the EU’s utilised agricultural area (UAA). So although the mean size of an agricultural holding in the EU was 16.6 ha in 2016, the median was under 5 ha.
Among Member States, this distribution was most contrasting in Romania; nine in every ten farms (92% or 3.1 million farms) were smaller than 5 ha, but the 0.5% of farms of 50 ha or more in size farmed half (51%) of all the UAA in the country.
Larger farms (of 50 hectares or more) were much more common in Luxembourg (52% of farms), France (41%), the United Kingdom (39%) and Denmark (35%). In most Member States, a majority of UAA was concentrated on the largest farms (50 ha or more in size).
Just over half of EU turnover in agriculture came from France, Germany, Italy and Spain
Contrasts in the size of farms were also reflected in terms of their economic size. Of the EU’s 10.3 million farms, 4.0 million had a standard output below EUR 2,000 and were responsible for only 1% of total agricultural economic output.
The 296.000 farms (or 3% of all holdings) in the EU that each produced a standard output of EUR 250,000 or more were responsible for a majority (55%) of the EU’s total agricultural economic output in 2016. About one half (54%) of the standard output generated by agriculture in the EU was from farms in France (17%), Germany (13%), Italy (12% in 2013) and Spain (11%) in 2016. Although Romania accounted for about one third of the EU’s farms, they accounted for only 3.4 % of the EU’s standard output.
France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany together account for half of EU`s agricultural land
France used 27.8 million hectares for agricultural purposes in 2016, the largest of any Member State (16% of EU total). A further 23.2 million hectares were farmed in Spain (14%), 16.7 million hectares in the United Kingdom (10%), 15.2 million hectares in Germany (9%) and 14.4 million hectares in Poland (8%). Agricultural landscapes dominated the countryside in some Member States; upwards of two-thirds of the land area of the United Kingdom (69%) and Ireland (72%) was used as agricultural land and the share was also particularly high in Denmark (62%). This was in stark contrast to Finland (8%) and Sweden (7%) where forest dominated the landscape, as well as Cyprus (12%).