Archive:Agriculture, forestry and fisheries statistics introduced

This Statistics Explained article has been archived - for recent articles on agriculture, forestry and fisheries see here.

Latest update of text: October 2016. Planned article update: January 2018.

European Union (EU) agricultural statistics were initially designed to monitor the main objectives of the common agricultural policy (CAP), for example the production and supply of agricultural products and income in the agricultural sector. Today, agricultural statistics cover topics as diverse as: farm structure, use of farm land, labour input, production, supply/use, prices, and the composition of agricultural income. National and regional data are available. In recent decades, to accompany policy developments, new indicators and statistics have been developed, for example relating to the environment, such as the use and impact of pesticides and nutrients. Another development in agricultural statistics has been to establish statistics related to the organic farming. In 2015, a strategy on agricultural statistics 2020 and beyond was agreed with the aim of modernising the whole statistical domain.

Fisheries statistics cover fish catches and landings, the fishing fleet and also aquaculture. Annual data on catches are available for a selection of major fishing areas and for a detailed list of species, while annual data on landings are presented by species, nationality of vessel and country of landing.

Concerning forestry, Eurostat produces annual data based on two questionnaires: the joint forest sector questionnaire (JFSQ) on production and trade in wood and wood products (part of a worldwide exercise conducted with organisations of the UN family) and the European forest accounts (EFA), which are part of an environmental satellite accounts initiative.


Agriculture was one of the first sectors of the economy (following coal and steel) to receive the attention of EU policymakers. Article 39 of the Treaty of Rome on the EEC (1957) set out the objectives for the first CAP; this was focused on increasing agricultural productivity as a way to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, stabilising markets, and ensuring security of supply at affordable prices for consumers.

As the primary objective of producing more food within Europe was achieved, food surpluses accrued, distorting trade and raising environmental concerns. These were the principal drivers for changes in the common agricultural policy, a process that started in the early 1990s and which resulted in a change from support for production towards a more market-oriented and environmentally-friendly and sustainable agriculture. Further reforms of agricultural policy have taken place in recent years, most notably in 2003, 2008 and 2013. These have sought to make the EU’s agricultural sector more market-oriented, ensure that safe and affordable food continues to be produced, while respecting environmental and sustainability concerns.

The reform of 2003 introduced a new system of direct payments — income support farmers receive through the CAP — known as the single payment scheme. This aimed to guarantee farmers more stable incomes. In 2008 further changes were made, such that aid to the agricultural sector was decoupled from production by 2012.

The reform of 2013 focused on three priorities:

  • viable food production;
  • sustainable management of natural resources;
  • balanced development of rural areas.

It is based on four new legislative instruments that aim to simplify the rules of the CAP and which cover:

The main elements of the CAP post-2013 concern: a fairer distribution of direct payments (with targeted support and convergence goals); strengthening the position of farmers within the food production chain (such as through: the promotion of professional and inter-professional organisations; changes to the organisation of the sugar and wine sectors; revisions to public intervention and private storage aid; and new crisis management tools); and continued support for rural development, safeguarding the environment and biodiversity.

Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013 established the rules for direct payments to farmers under support schemes within the framework of the reformed CAP, and includes provisions for a voluntary coupled support (VCS) framework, valued at EUR 4.1 billion in 2015. EU Member States may grant VCS to types of farming/specific sectors that are particularly important for economic/social/environmental reasons and which are undergoing certain difficulties. There are a total of 21 sectors which are potentially eligible: cereals, oilseeds, protein crops, grain legumes, flax, hemp, rice, nuts, starch potato, milk and milk products, seeds, sheep meat and goat meat, beef and veal, olive oil, silkworms, dried fodder, hops, sugar beet, cane and chicory, fruit and vegetables and short rotation coppice. In 2015, the sectors receiving the most support included: beef and veal (41 % of the VCS budget for 2015); milk and dairy products (20 %); sheep and goat meat (12 %); and protein crops (11 %).

All of the above changes are designed to ensure that the CAP is more effective in delivering a competitive and sustainable agriculture sector, responding to the challenges of food safety, climate change, growth and jobs in rural areas. These reforms are made in relation to the goals of developing intelligent, sustainable and inclusive growth, in line with the Europe 2020 strategy, while taking account of the wealth and diversity of the agricultural sector across European regions.

The CAP is financed by two funds: on the one hand, the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) finances direct payments to farmers, as well as measures to respond to market disturbances; on the other, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) finances the rural development programme.

The CAP post-2013 aims to help farmers stimulate employment, entrepreneurship and the diversification of farms beyond food production. Almost one third (30 %) of direct payments in the post-2013 CAP are linked to sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices, such as crop diversification, the maintenance of permanent grassland, or the protection of ecological areas on farms; there is also specific aid for organic farming. The EU’s market for organic produce is thought to have quadrupled over the last 10 years. This is reflected in the financial framework programming of the CAP for the period 2014–2020 which places a greater emphasis on organic farming and increases its visibility in rural development through creating a separate measure for rural development funding. In March 2014, the European Commission adopted legislative proposals for a new Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products (COM(2014) 180), which aims to adapt legislation to reflect the current situation in EU markets for organic produce, while the European Commission also adopted an action plan on the future of organic production in Europe (COM(2014) 179) to help organic farmers, processors and retailers adjust to new policy developments.

As part of the implementation of CAP reforms, the European Commission adopted a first package of implementing legislation in March 2014; these were largely concerned with expenditure, aid, direct payments, support and administration programmes for a range of different food sectors, including fruit and vegetables, olive oil and wine. For a more detailed review of CAP reforms over the period 2014–2020, refer to the website of the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development.

In January 2015, the European Commission initiated a review of the legal basis related to agriculture in order to identify the potential for simplification. A broad range of interested bodies were invited to put forward simplification proposals and more than 1 500 proposals were put forward and examined based on the following three principles:

  • simplification should be predominantly for the benefit of the CAP beneficiaries;
  • the political decisions of the 2013 reform should not be questioned;
  • simplification should not jeopardise the sound financial management of the CAP.

A number of actions have been taken, for example introducing more flexibility, providing greater guidance, or introducing preliminary cross checks of aid applications to reduce the risk of penalties.

In October 2014, it was agreed that all sectors should contribute to the EU's 2030 emission reduction target: in July 2016, the European Commission presented a proposal for an effort sharing Regulation (COM(2016) 482), setting out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for Member States for the period 2021–2030. These targets cover sectors of the economy that fall outside the scope of the EU emissions trading system, including agriculture among others. The proposal is the follow-up to the effort sharing decision, which established national emissions targets between 2013 and 2020.


Contrary to what is happening in many other parts of the world, the area covered by forests and other wooded land in the EU-28 has increased over the last 60 years (although the pace of expansion has slowed in recent years). Forests occur under a huge variety of climatic, geographic, ecological and socioeconomic conditions. Ecologically, the forests of the EU belong to many different biogeographical regions and have adapted to a variety of natural conditions, ranging from bogs to steppes and from lowland to alpine forests. Socioeconomically, they vary from small family holdings to state forests or to large estates owned by companies, many as part of industrial wood supply chains; about 60 % of the EU’s wooded land is privately owned.

While the EU has no separate policy on forestry, forests are affected by a broad array of EU sectoral policies. Environmental forest functions have attracted increasing attention in relation to the protection of biodiversity and in the context of energy policies and the impact of climate change. Alongside the proposal for the effort sharing regulation (which includes agriculture — see above), in July 2016 the European Commission proposed a Regulation (COM(2016) 479) to extend the 2030 climate and energy framework to cover also land use, land use change and forestry from 2021. The actions of forest owners and farmers to secure carbon stored in forests and soils will thus contribute to achieving the EU's commitment under the Paris Agreement on climate change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 % by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

The EU funds many different measures for rural development that directly benefit forest owners. In September 2013, the European Commission adopted a Communication on a new EU Forest Strategy: for forests and the forest-based sector (COM(2013) 659). For more information and statistics on this sector, refer to this article on forestry.


Fish are a natural, biological, mobile (sometimes over wide distances) and renewable resource. Aside from fish farming, fish cannot be owned until they have been caught. For this reason, fish stocks continue to be regarded as a common resource, which therefore need to be managed collectively. This has led to a range of policies and international agreements that regulate the amount of fishing, as well as the types of fishing techniques and gear used to catch fish.

In July 2011, the European Commission presented proposals for a reform of the common fisheries policy (CFP) which were adopted in December 2013 and became effective on 1 January 2014. The CFP is designed to conserve fish stocks and to manage them as a common resource; it gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds. It aims to ensure that the EU’s fishing industry is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, through high long-term fishing yields for all stocks (at the latest by 2020); this is referred to as maximum sustainable yield. Another increasingly important aim of the CFP is to reduce unwanted catches and wasteful practices to the minimum or avoid them altogether. Fish farming (or aquaculture) provides an alternative to catches of wild fish. Data on aquaculture are used by the CFP for monitoring this activity which currently makes up one fifth of the EU-28's total fishery production.

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for 2014–2020 is one of five European structural and investment (ESI) funds, it aims to: help fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing; support coastal communities in diversifying their economies; finance projects that create new jobs and help improve the quality of life along European coasts; make it easier for applicants to access financing. A total of EUR 6.4 billion has been allocated to this fund for the period from 2014 to 2020. For more information and statistics on this sector, refer to this article on fisheries.

See also

All articles on agriculture (including farm structure), fisheries and forestry

Further Eurostat information


Main tables


Farm structure (ef)
Economic Accounts for Agriculture (aact)
Agricultural prices and price indices (apri)
Agricultural production (apro)
Structure of orchards and vineyards (orch_vit)
Regional Agriculture Statistics (agr_r)
Removals, production and trade (for_rpt)
Economics and employment (for_eaf)
Sustainable forest management (for_sfm)
Catches by fishing area (fish_ca)
Aquaculture production by species (fish_aq)
Landings of fishery products (fish_ld)
Fishing fleet (fish_fleet)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

External links