Archive:Agricultural census 2010 - main results

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This article presents some statistics from the most recent farm structure surveys (FSS) conducted in the European Union (EU) as an agricultural census in 2009/10. This was the first synchronised agricultural census across all EU-27 Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland; a sample survey was also carried out in Croatia.

Table 1: Key farm variables, 2010 - Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg)
Figure 1: Agricultural holdings, 2010
(% share of number of holdings in the EU-28) - Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg)
Table 2: Agricultural holdings, by size of holding, 2010
(number of holdings) - Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg)
Table 3: Utilised agriculture area, by size of the holding
(hectares) - Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg)
Table 4: Agricultural holdings, by economic size class, 2010
(number of holdings) - Source: Eurostat (ef_kvecsleg)
Table 5: Standard output of agricultural holdings, by economic size class, 2010
(EUR million) - Source: Eurostat (ef_kvecsleg)
Figure 2: Utilised agricultural area, 2010
(% share of total utilised agricultural area in the EU-28) - Source: Eurostat (ef_oluft)
Table 6: Utilised agricultural area, by land use, 2010
(1 000 hectares) - Source: Eurostat (ef_oluft)
Table 7: Agricultural holdings, by farm type, 2010
(number of holdings) - Source: Eurostat (ef_kvftreg)
Table 8: Livestock units, 2010
(1 000 LSU) - Source: Eurostat (ef_kvftreg)Source: Eurostat, Farm structure survey
Figure 3: Livestock units, 2010
(% share of total livestock units in the EU-28) - Source: Eurostat (ef_kvftreg)Source: Eurostat, Farm structure survey
Table 9: Farm labour force, 2010 - Source: Eurostat (ef_olfftecs)
Figure 4: Farm labour force, by type of labour, 2010
(% share of farm labour force, by annual work units) - Source: Eurostat (ef_olfftecs)

This coordinated effort has strengthened the coherent and comparable nature of the structural data. Nevertheless, it should be noted that some methodological changes were introduced for the latest census, which limit comparability with other survey years; the minimum size threshold for agricultural holdings was raised in some of the EU Member States, while ensuring that 98 % of the farmland (known as the utilised agricultural area) and livestock of each country were covered, and common land was included.

Main statistical findings

Agricultural holdings

There were 12.2 million farms across the EU-28 in 2010, working 174.1 million hectares of land (the utilised agricultural area) or two fifths (40.0 %) of the total land area of the EU-28. The average size of each agricultural holding (farm) in the EU-28 was 14.2 hectares (see Table 1). However, there were stark contrasts in the structure of agriculture across the EU: on the one hand, there were a large number (6.0 million or half of all holdings) of very small farms (less than 2 hectares in size) that farmed a small proportion (2.5 %) of the total land area that was used for farming in 2010 and, on the other, a small number (2.7 % of all holdings) of very large farms (over 100 hectares) that farmed almost half (50.2 %) of the farmland in the EU-28 (see Tables 2 and 3).

Almost one third (31.5 % or 3.9 million) of all agricultural holdings in the EU-28 were in Romania (see Figure 1). These holdings can be characterised as being small; three quarters of holdings in Romania were under 2.0 hectares in size. One in four of the EU-28’s holdings were in Italy (13.2 %) or Poland (12.3 %) and these too can be characterised as being small (on average, under 10.0 hectares in size). There were a number of EU Member States, however, where larger farms were more typical; a majority of farms in Germany (53.9 %), France (54.4 %), Denmark (55.1 %), Finland (57.0 %), Ireland (57.8 %), the United Kingdom (61.4 %) and Luxembourg (65.5 %) were larger than 20 hectares. Indeed, the average size of an agricultural holding in the United Kingdom (90.4 hectares) was a little over six times as high as the EU-28 average in 2010, and the average size of holdings in the Czech Republic was higher still (152.4 hectares) as a result of a small number of very large farms.

This contrast was also reflected in the economic size of holdings. Of the 12.2 million agricultural holdings in the EU-28 in 2010, 5.5 million holdings (44.6 %) had a standard output below EUR 2 000 and were responsible for only 1.4 % of total agricultural economic output in 2010. By contrast, the 1.9 % of holdings that had a standard output in excess of EUR 250 000 accounted for almost one half (47.8 %) of all agricultural economic output (see Tables 4 and 5).

Agricultural land use

One half of all the land used in agriculture across the EU-28 was farmed in just four Member States: France (16.0 % of the EU-28 total), Spain (13.6 %), the United Kingdom (9.7 %) and Germany (9.6 %). About another one quarter (23.3 %) was farmed in Poland, Romania and Italy, the other 21 Member States farming the other quarter of the EU-28’s farmland (see Figure 2).

Three fifths (59.7 %) of the farmland in the EU-28 was used as arable land in 2010, a majority being used for cereal production. A further one third (34.0 %) was permanent grassland and meadow . Permanent crops, such as vineyards, olive trees and orchards, accounted for a 6.1 % share and kitchen gardens around 0.2 % (see Table 6).

The majority of farmland was used as arable land in 21 of the EU Member States, this share rising to above 90 % in Denmark and Finland. However, in Austria, Luxembourg, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and Ireland, where there are a high proportion of farms that specialise in grazing livestock, a majority of farmland was permanent pasture and meadow. The proportion of farmland occupied by permanent crops was relatively high in some of the Mediterranean countries, the highest shares (a little over 25 %) being in Cyprus and Greece.

Farm typology

In 2010, one in every four (24.9 %) farms in the EU-28 was a holding with specialist field crops (for example, cereals, oilseeds and vegetables). A further one in every five (20.1 %) farms was a specialist permanent crop holding (for example, with vineyards, olive groves or orchards). Specialist grazing livestock holdings (with dairy cows, cattle, sheep and other ruminants), granivore holdings (pigs or poultry), mixed livestock holdings and mixed crop-livestock holdings together accounted for almost half (46.7 %) of all agricultural holdings in the EU-28 (see Table 7).

Livestock units

In order to compare different livestock, a notional unit called a ‘livestock unit’ (LSU) is used. To calculate livestock units, a range of agreed weights are applied to the various types of farm animal to provide figures that are equivalent to one adult dairy cow or 10 sheep. On this basis, the ‘EU-28’s livestock herd’ was 135.2 million LSU in 2010, about one half (47.4 %) of which was cattle, a little over one quarter (27.4 %) of which was pigs and 15.0 % of which was poultry (see Table 8). Just over half (50.7 %) of the ‘EU-28’s livestock herd’ was located in just four Member States, namely: France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom (see Figure 3).

Agricultural labour force

According to the EU’s labour force survey, agriculture, forestry and fishing employed 11.3 million persons aged over 15 in the EU-28 in 2010 (of which 1.1 million were over the age of 65), the equivalent of 5.2 % of all those employed. The agricultural census estimated that 25.5 million people worked regularly in agriculture, of which 23.5 million people were either the holder or members of the holder's family. After taking into account the amount of time actually worked and converting this into equivalents of full-time work (measured as annual work units), the census estimated that the equivalent of 9.9 million people worked full-time on farms in 2010 (see Table 9). The agricultural labour force (in full-time labour equivalents) was highest in Poland (19.1 % of the EU-28 total), Romania (16.2 %) and Italy (9.6 %).

Farming was predominantly a family activity in the EU-28; about three quarters (77.8 %) of the labour input in agriculture came from the holder or members of his/her family in 2010. In Malta, Croatia, Ireland and Poland, family labour accounted for over 90 % of the volume of work carried out in agriculture (see Figure 4). By contrast, there was a small number of countries for whom non-family labour accounted for a majority of the labour force in 2010: these included France (56.3 %), Slovakia (71.9 %) and the Czech Republic (77.7 %). Even in some countries where family labour provided a majority of labour, there were relatively large volumes of non-family labour: in particular, non-regular (seasonal) labour (often for picking perishable crops) represented between 10 % and 20 % of the total labour input within agriculture in Cyprus, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece and Spain.

Data sources and availability

The legal basis for the farm structure survey (FSS) is Regulation 1166/2008 of 19 November 2008. EU Member States collect information from individual agricultural holdings and, observing strict rules of confidentiality, data are forwarded to Eurostat. The information collected in the farm structure survey covers land use, livestock numbers, rural development, management and farm labour input (including the age, gender and relationship to the holder of the agricultural holding). The survey data can be aggregated by different geographic levels (for Member States, regions, and also districts). The data can also be arranged by size class, area status, legal status of the holding, objective zone and farm type.

The basic unit underlying the farm structure survey is the agricultural holding: a technical-economic unit, under single management, engaged in agricultural production. Although the thresholds for defining an agricultural holding can be different between countries (as high as five hectares of UAA in some cases), the survey covers 98 % of the UAA and the livestock of each country.


The structure of agriculture in the Member States of the European Union (EU) varies as a function of differences in geology, topography, climate and natural resources, as well as the diversity of regional activities, infrastructure and social customs. The survey on the structure of agricultural holdings, also known as the farm structure survey, helps assess the agricultural situation across the EU, monitoring trends and transitions in the structure of agricultural holdings, while also modelling the impact of external developments or policy proposals.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Farm structure survey: historical data (1990-2007) (t_ef)


Farm structure 2010 (ef_2010)
Key farm variables (ef_kv)
Overview - Farm land use (ef_olu)
Overview - Farm livestock (ef_ols)
Overview - Farm labour force (ef_olf)
Farm land use - Arable land (ef_ala)
Farm land use - Permanent crops, other farmland, irrigation (ef_po)
Farm livestock and fodder crops (ef_lsf)
Farm labour force (ef_lf)
Other gainful activities and support for rural development (ef_oga)
Farm management and practises (ef_mp)
Survey on agricultural production methods (SAPM, 2010) (ef_pm)
Standard output (SO) coefficients used for typology (ef_tso_coef)

Dedicated sections

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures on this page (MS Excel)

Other information

  • Regulation 1166/2008 of 19 November 2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods and repealing Council Regulation 571/88
  • Regulation 1200/2009 of 30 November 2009 implementing Regulation 1166/2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods, as regards livestock unit coefficients and definitions of the characteristics

External links