Statistics Explained

Agriculture statistics at regional level



Data extracted in March 2021.

Planned article update: September 2022.

Highlights

Salzburg (Austria) was the only region in the EU where organic farming accounted for more than half (51.8 %) of the total utilised agricultural area in 2016; the EU average was 7.1 %.

In excess of 10.0 million tonnes of cereals were produced in 2019 in Centro (Spain), in Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine (France) as well as in Severna i yugoiztochna (Bulgaria).

Source: Eurostat (apro_cpshr)

Agricultural products, food and culinary traditions are a major part of the European Union’s (EU’s) regional and cultural identity. This is, at least in part, due to a diverse range of natural environments, climates and farming practices that feed through into a wide array of agricultural products.

Around two fifths (38.2 %) of the EU’s land is farmed: this underlines the important impact that farming can have on natural environments, natural resources and wildlife. Farmers in the EU are increasingly being encouraged to manage the countryside as a public good, so that the whole of society can benefit.

This article presents regional agricultural statistics focusing on three specific areas with information on: organic farming; the harvested production of various cereals (common wheat and spelt; barley; grain maize and corn-cob-mix; other cereals); and the number of animals, focusing on swine (such as pigs).

Full article

Area under organic farming

Intensive farming can have a considerable environmental impact. Among other issues, it can lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions or soil erosion, or result in habitat and biodiversity loss, deforestation or the contamination of waters.

EU regulations on organic farming are designed to provide a structure for the production of organic goods. Consumers are increasingly aware of provenance and farming methods: this may explain, at least in part, why a growing proportion of EU farmers have adopted organic farming methods. In 2016, the EU’s organic area covered 11.4 million hectares, which corresponded to a 7.1 % share of the total utilised agricultural area. Note the organic area includes the agricultural area fully converted and the agricultural area that is under conversion. While most regional data presented in this article relate to 2016, more recent national data indicate that this share had risen to 8.5 % by 2019.

The share of the utilised agricultural area that was under organic farming in 2016 varied considerably between EU Member States and between NUTS level 2 regions; note that the statistics presented for Közép-Magyarország (Hungary) and Makroregion Województwo Mazowieckie (Poland) relate to NUTS level 1 regions, while national data are provided for Ireland and Lithuania. Out of 232 regions for which data are available, there were 26 where, in 2016, the area under organic farming represented at least 16.5 % of the total (as shown by the darkest shade of orange in Map 1). There were relatively high shares of agricultural land using organic farming methods in Austria, Sweden, Estonia, and to a somewhat lesser degree, Czechia and Italy. By contrast, organic farming was much less common in Malta, as well as in several regions of Belgium, Spain, Poland and Romania.

Salzburg (Austria) was the only region in the EU where organic farming accounted for more than half of the total utilised agricultural area

The highest share of organic farming was recorded in Salzburg (Austria). It was the only region in the EU to report that more than half (51.8 %) of its utilised agricultural area in 2016 was under organic farming, some 93 000 hectares. The next highest shares — within the range of 29.3-29.6 % — were recorded in Severozápad (Czechia), Norra Mellansverige (Sweden) and Calabria (Italy). Among the 26 regions where the area under organic farming represented at least 16.5 % of the total utilised agricultural area, the largest areas under organic farming were in: Sicilia (Italy; 375 000 hectares) and Estonia (181 000 hectares).

Map 1: Share of organic farming in utilised agricultural area (UAA), 2016
(%, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (ef_lus_main) and (org_cropar)

Map 2 looks at the absolute size of the organic area in each region, rather than its share; unlike Map 1, this map is based on NUTS level 1 regions. The two regions with the largest organic farming areas in 2016 were the Sud and Isole regions of Italy.

Permanent grassland accounted for at least half of the organic area in 35 of the 73 EU regions for which data are shown, peaking at 97.3 % in Ireland. This type of organic area was particularly common in several regions across northern and western EU Member States; the Nord-Est region of Italy was the only southern region with permanent grassland accounting for more than half of the organic area, while Czechia, Makroregion Południowy (Poland), Macroregiunea Unu (Romania), Slovenia and Slovakia were the only eastern regions. Arable land accounted for the majority of the organic area in Macroregiunea Doi (Romania), Lithuania and Ostösterreich (Austria), while permanent crops accounted for more than half of the organic area in Comunidad De Madrid (Spain) and Nisia Aigaiou, Kriti (Greece).

Map 2: Organic farm area, 2016
(by NUTS 1 regions)
Source: Eurostat (ef_lus_main) and (org_cropar)

Cereals

Arable land is often used for the production of cereals, one of the most important outputs of the EU’s agricultural sector. Cereals are used primarily for human consumption and animal feed, but they may also be used to make drinks and industrial products (for example, starch).

There is considerable diversity in relation to the types of cereal that are grown in the EU, with regional specialisation reflecting, at least to some degree, topography, soil type, climate and rainfall, or competing land uses. In 2019, the harvested production of cereals in the EU was 299.3 million tonnes. Common wheat and spelt (131.8 million tonnes or 44.0 % of total cereals production) was the most frequently grown category of cereals.

Map 3: Harvested production of cereals, 2019
(by NUTS 1 regions)
Source: Eurostat (apro_cpshr)

Three of the NUTS level 1 regions in the EU had a production of cereals in 2019 in excess of 10.0 million tonnes, namely Centro in Spain, Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine in France and Severna i yugoiztochna in Bulgaria. Three other French regions, two Romanian regions, and Denmark all had production in excess of 9.0 million tonnes. Among these nine regions with the largest production of cereals, common wheat and spelt was the most commonly harvested cereal in five of them. In the two Romanian regions as well as Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes (France), grain maize and corn-cob-mix was the main cereal crop. In Centro (Spain), barley accounted for just over two fifths of total cereals production.

Figures 1 and 2 provide a summary of the regions with the highest levels of production for common wheat and spelt as well as for grain maize and corn-cob-mix: note that these figures are based on data for NUTS level 2 regions (although German data are only available for level 1 regions).

Common wheat and spelt

Production of common wheat and spelt was principally located in lowland regions characterised by large plains, a temperate climate and relatively modest levels of rainfall. In terms of the area on which common wheat and spelt was cultivated in 2019, the largest was Vidurio ir vakarų Lietuvos regionas in Lithuania, followed by Castilla y León in Spain. Three Romanian regions figured among the top 10 in terms of cultivated area. In terms of the production quantity, the two largest regions — with production around 5 million tonnes each in 2019 — were Centre-Val de Loire and Picardie, both in France. In total, six French regions were among the top 10 in terms of the level of production. The differences between the rankings in terms of area and production reflect regional yields, which in turn reflect variations in a wide range of factors, such as rainfall, temperature, or the use of nutrients and pesticides.

Figure 1: Top regions in the EU for the production of common wheat and spelt, 2019
(by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (apro_cpshr)

Grain maize and corn-cob-mix

A majority of the EU’s production of grain maize and corn-cob mix is used by livestock farmers as a high energy ingredient in animal feed. The data presented below exclude the production of sweet corn cobs for human consumption as well as maize that is harvested green for fodder or renewable energy use.

In 2019, grain maize and corn-cob-mix accounted for just under one quarter (23.4 %) of the EU’s total cereals production. As such, this was the second most frequently produced category of cereals (behind common wheat and spelt). EU production of grain maize and corn-cob-mix was 70.1 million tonnes in 2019.

Many of the regions that are specialised in the production of grain maize and corn-cob mix are located in southern and eastern EU Member States, where there are typically the necessary warm temperatures required. From the western Member States, some French regions are also relatively specialised in the production of grain maize and corn-cob mix.

In 2019, the five EU regions with the largest cultivated areas for grain maize and corn-cob-mix were all located in Romania, as was the seventh. Equally, 6 of the 10 regions in the EU with the highest levels of harvested production of grain maize and corn-cob-mix were located in Romania; the three largest were Sud-Muntenia (3.6 million tonnes of output), followed by Vest (3.3 million tonnes) and Sud-Est (3.0 million tonnes) — see Figure 2. In terms of area and also production, the six Romanian regions were joined by two Hungarian regions (Észak-Alföld for area and production, Dél-Alföld for area and Dél-Dunántúl for production), and single regions from France (Aquitaine) and Croatia (Kontinentalna Hrvatska).

Figure 2: Top regions in the EU for the production of grain maize and corn-cob-mix, 2019
(by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (apro_cpshr)

Animals

In December 2019, pigs (swine) were the most commonly reared animals in the EU (143.1 million head), followed by bovine animals (such as cows; 77.2 million head), sheep (an estimated 62.5 million head) and goats (an estimated 12.1 million head). The total livestock population for these four types of animals in the EU was 295 million head.

Several EU Member States have clear livestock rearing specialisations that were common to most or even all of their regions. For example, this was the case for goats in Greece, pigs in Denmark and bovine animals in Ireland.

Figure 3: Top regions in the EU for livestock, 2019
(million head, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (agr_r_animal)

Livestock: number of live swine

The final section of this article focuses on swine, the largest of the four main types of livestock in the EU. As seen in Figure 3, Niedersachsen in Germany had the largest swine population in 2019, 8.3 million head. However, it should be noted that German data are only available for NUTS level 1 regions. Among the NUTS level 2 regions, the largest population of swine was 8.2 million in Aragón, Spain.

Map 4 shows not only the overall size of swine populations in each region, but also an analysis by type of pigs; note these data are presented for NUTS level 1 regions. At this level of detail, the regions with the largest swine populations in 2019 were Denmark (12.7 million head), the Spanish regions of Este (9.1 million) and Noreste (9.0 million), and Niedersachsen. Across the EU, 33 of the 88 regions for which data are available had at least 1.0 million swine. These regions were widely spread across the EU, including among others: Denmark and Finland (national data only) in the north; many German regions and Ireland in the west; several Spanish regions, Continente (Portugal) and two northern Italian regions in the south; and Czechia, Croatia, two (of three) Hungarian regions and several Polish regions in the east.

In three of the regions with at least 1.0 million swine — Nord-Est and Nord-Ovest in Italy as well as Niedersachsen in Germany — more than half of the swine were fattening pigs (weighing at least 50 kg). This share was also nearly reached in several other regions, such as Noroeste in Spain and Makroregion Województwo Mazowieckie in Poland. By contrast, piglets accounted for at least two fifths of the swine population in Sachsen-Anhalt in Germany and the two Dutch regions with large swine populations, namely Zuid-Nederland and Oost-Nederland.

Map 4: Live swine, December 2019
(by NUTS 1 regions)
Source: Eurostat (agr_r_animal) and (apro_mt_lspig)

Figure 4 provides a similar analysis to that in Map 4, but shows the absolute numbers for each of the four swine categories for NUTS level 2 regions; note the latest data for Germany are once again at NUTS level 1. In 2019, the two largest populations of fattening pigs weighing at least 50 kg were in the German regions of Niedersachsen and Nordrhein-Westfalen, with 4.2 and 3.4 million fattening pigs each, while there were 3.0-3.2 million fattening pigs in Bretagne (France), Cataluña and Aragón (both Spain). Smaller pigs, weighing 20 to less than 50 kg were most common in Aragón (2.4 million) and Stockholm, the Swedish capital region (2.2 million). There were four regions across the EU that reported a population of piglets that was above 2.0 million head: Cataluña and Aragón, Niedersachsen and Noord-Brabant (the Netherlands).

Figure 4: Top regions in the EU for live swine, 2019
(million head, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (agr_r_animal) and (apro_mt_lspig)

Source data for figures and maps

Excel.jpg Agriculture at regional level

Data sources

Census and farm structure surveys

An agricultural census is carried out every 10 years by EU Member States. The most recent one for which results are available was conducted in 2010, while data from the 2020 census are being processed by Member States. Between census years, there are two farm structure surveys (FSS), the most recent of which was conducted in 2016; these are the main sources of structural agricultural statistics. In the census and FSS, Member States collect information from individual agricultural holdings covering: the use of agricultural land; livestock numbers; rural development (for example, activities other than agriculture); soil management practices and farm labour input.

The legal basis for farm structure surveys is provided by a Excel.jpg lengthy list of survey-specific implementing regulations and decisions that cover aspects such as survey organisation, characteristics, definitions and typologies. For example, European Commission Regulation (EU) No 715/2014 of 26 June 2014 amending Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 1166/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods, covered a list of characteristics to be collected in the 2016 FSS. Note that these legislative documents are no longer in force and that new legislation has been enacted for future farm structure surveys and the agricultural census of 2020 (see Regulation (EU) 2018/1091 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on integrated farm statistics). Thresholds used for the farm structure survey are generally set so as to include farms with a utilised agricultural area over one hectare, although thresholds were raised to two hectares for Slovakia, three hectares for Luxembourg, and five hectares for Czechia, Denmark and Germany.

Crop statistics

The legal basis for crop statistics is Regulation (EC) No 543/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 concerning crop statistics, Regulation (EU) No 1350/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 amending certain legislative acts in the field of agricultural and fishery statistics and Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1557/2015 amending Regulation (EC) No 543/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning crop statistics.

Livestock statistics

The legal basis for livestock statistics is Regulation (EC) No 1165/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 concerning livestock and meat statistics and Regulation (EU) No 1350/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 amending certain legislative acts in the field of agricultural and fishery statistics.

Indicator definitions

Organic farming

Organic farming differs from other agricultural production methods in the application of regulated standards (production rules), compulsory control schemes and a specific labelling scheme. Data are collected on the crop area under organic production (fully converted area) and under conversion.

The share of organic farming is calculated as a proportion of the utilised agricultural area (UAA). The UAA is the total area taken up by arable land, permanent grassland, permanent crops and kitchen gardens used by the holding, regardless of the type of tenure or of whether it is used as a part of common land. Excluded, among other types of land, are woodland, land occupied by buildings, farmyards, tracks, ponds, and land leased or rented to someone else.

The analysis of the organic farm area distinguishes the following types of farmland:

  • arable land — land worked (ploughed or tilled) regularly, generally under a system of crop rotation;
  • permanent grassland — land used permanently (for several consecutive years, normally 5 years or more) to grow herbaceous fodder, forage or energy purpose crops, through cultivation (sown) or naturally (self-seeded), and which is not included in the crop rotation on the holding; it may be used for grazing, mown for silage and hay or used for renewable energy production;
  • permanent crops — land used for fruit trees (including citrus fruit trees), nut trees, berry plants, vines, olive trees and all other permanent crops, regardless of whether they are used for human consumption or not.

Crop statistics

The harvested production of crops includes on-holding losses and wastage, quantities consumed directly on the farm, and marketed quantities.

Livestock statistics

Livestock statistics can be presented as simple counts of animals (referred to as heads) or converted into livestock units in order to be aggregated. The main types of livestock for which data are published include bovines (such as cattle), sheep, goats, equidae (such as horses), swine (such as pigs), poultry (such as chickens) and rabbits. The data presented are based on the stock of animals in December of a given year.

Context

Common agricultural policy

The common agricultural policy (CAP) is one of the EU’s oldest policies, supporting farmers and contributing to Europe’s food security. It aims to:

  • support farmers and improve agricultural productivity, so that consumers have a stable supply of affordable food;
  • ensure that EU farmers can make a reasonable living;
  • help tackle climate change and the sustainable management of natural resources;
  • maintain rural areas and landscapes across the EU;
  • keep the rural economy alive promoting jobs in farming, agri-foods industries and associated sectors.

The CAP is a common policy for all the Member States of the EU. It is managed for the EU as a whole and funded from the resources of the EU’s budget.

The CAP takes action in three ways:

  • income support — direct payments ensure income stability, and remunerate farmers for environmentally friendly farming and delivering public goods not normally paid for by the markets, such as taking care of the countryside;
  • market measures — the EU can take measures to deal with difficult market situations such as a sudden drop in demand due to a health scare, or a fall in prices as a result of a temporary oversupply;
  • rural development measures — national and regional programmes address the specific needs and challenges facing rural areas.

The most recent CAP programming period ran from 2014 to 2020. A transitional legal basis was adopted for 2021 and 2022. During the transitional two-year period, most of the CAP rules and procedures applied during the 2014-2020 period are continuing.

In total, EUR 343.9 billion (in 2018 prices) have been budgeted for the CAP between 2021 and 2027, including EUR 7.5 billion which has been allocated to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development as part of the European Recovery Instrument (also known as Next Generation EU). The European Recovery Instrument is designed to support EU Member States to recover, repair and emerge stronger from the crisis. With respect to agriculture, funding through this instrument is intended to help farmers and rural areas to deliver the green transition as well as to support investments and reforms essential to Europe’s ambitious environmental targets.

The European Commission has made a proposal for the future CAP (COM(2018) 0322, 0392, 0393 and 0394), which is now expected to start in 2023. Under these plans, the future CAP would continue to ensure access to high-quality food and strong support for the EU’s farming model with an increased focus on the environment and climate, supporting the transition towards a more sustainable agricultural sector and the development of vibrant rural areas.

The nine objectives proposed for the future CAP are:

  • to ensure a fair income to farmers;
  • to increase competitiveness;
  • to rebalance the power in the food chain;
  • climate change action;
  • environmental care;
  • to preserve landscapes and biodiversity;
  • to support generational renewal;
  • to foster vibrant rural areas;
  • to protect food and health quality.

The European Commission’s proposals aim for a more flexible system, simplifying and modernising the way the CAP works for farmers and society. The proposed policy would shift the emphasis from compliance and rules towards results and performance. Furthermore, it would give more freedom to EU Member States, for example to decide on the way to meet common objectives set for the EU while responding to the specific needs of their farmers and rural communities.

Farm to fork strategy

The EU’s A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system (COM(2020) 381 final) has a number of aims: to tackle climate change; to protect the environment and preserve biodiversity; to ensure a fair economic return in the supply chain; and, to increase organic farming. The strategy includes a number of proposed targets to transform food systems in the EU by 2030, among which: a 50 % reduction in the use of chemicals and more hazardous pesticides; a 20 % reduction in the use of fertilisers; at least 25 % of the EU’s agricultural land to be used for organic farming.

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Regional agriculture statistics (t_reg_agr)
Animal populations by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00045)
Agricultural production (t_apro)
Crops products (t_apro_cp)
Livestock and meat (t_apro_mt)
Animal populations by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00045)


Regional agriculture statistics (reg_agr)
Agricultural production (reg_apro)
Animal populations by NUTS 2 regions (agr_animal)
Farm structure (ef)
Farm land use by NUTS 2 regions (ef_landuse)
Main farm land use by NUTS 2 regions (ef_lus_main)
Agricultural production (apro)
Crops (apro_crop)
Crop production (apro_cp)
Crop production in national humidity by NUTS 2 regions (apro_cpnhr)
Animal production (apro_anip)
Livestock and meat (apro_mt)
Livestock (apro_mt_ls)
Pig population - annual data (apro_mt_lspig)
Organic farming (org)
Organic crop area by agricultural production methods and crops (from 2012 onwards) (org_cropar)


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Maps can be explored interactively using Eurostat’s statistical atlas (see user manual).

This article forms part of Eurostat’s annual flagship publication, the Eurostat regional yearbook.