Transformation of EU countryside
In October 2013 the European Commission published a brief report about the most prominent changes in the rural areas in EU countries. It was based on data collected between 2005 and 2010. Let us take a look at the figures showing the extent of the transformations.
Fewer farms, bigger farms
The continuing fall of the number of farms is an important trend. Their overall number is diminishing despite the fact that new countries join the EU. There are now 12 million farms in all EU countries. Their acreage grew by 3.8% in comparison with the figure from 2005. The average size of farmland in every agricultural unit is 14.3 hectares, which is not little, unless we compare this European average to the standard farm in the USA, Argentina, and of course Australia. The acreage of farmed arable land decreased, but only slightly – from 172 million hectares in 2005 to 171.6 million hectares in 2010, ensuring reliable food supply for the inhabitants of Europe.
Rural areas in the EU are characterized by small size of farms. One reason for this is the procedure of inheriting land and subdivisions of farms between numerous heirs. 69% of EU farms now fall below 5 hectares, while only 2.7% measure 100 hectares or more. However, the former group makes up as little as 7% of farmland, while the latter type, the largest farms, constitute as much as 50% of all EU arable land. It is worth mentioning here that the mean output of an agricultural enterprise rose by 5.2% in the 5 years analyzed and, reached 25,500 EUR in 2010.
Meanwhile in Poland
Over 3 million Polish citizens own farmland, but only c. 200,000 farmers have at least 15 hectares, or enough to run a profitable agricultural enterprise. Although the average size is only 9.5 hectares, it is almost twice as big as the figure from 2002 – 5 hectares. This resulted from the fall of the number of farms. Similar trend may be observed in the whole EU. Most farms (c. 96%) are small or medium in size, but the farmers who may boast about the largest acreages (15 to 100 hectares) take over more and more land, now owning 37% of the whole farmland in Poland.