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Facts & Figures

France – agriculture in numbers

The regional Forum for the Future of Agriculture takes place in Reims, France on Wednesday, January 25, 2017. In this article we explain some details on the structure of agriculture in the country.

The European territory of France covers 551,500 square kilometres, the largest among European Union members. 54% of its territory is agricultural surface making France the 1st agricultural power in the EU with 18-19% of the EU agricultural revenue (leading on both animal and vegetal production). Even so, agriculture only represents around 1.5% of the French GDP[1].

The main cultivated crop type is cereals (mainly wheat) of which France is also the largest European producer. Fodder crops, such as alfalfa, barley, hay, clover, follow in second place with around two thirds of the cereal production. The third main crop type are the industrial crops (such as maize, rapeseed or flax)[2].

The largest number of farms in France is still the small farms, less than 5 ha, but it is currently reducing in numbers faster than any other sized agricultural holdings. The only farm size increasing in numbers is the more than 100 ha farms which shows that there is a trend where there are less but larger farms. This is also reflected in the total number of agricultural holdings, which as can be seen in Figure 2 is as well in a steady decline[3].

Figure 1: Number of agricultural holdings per size category [3] France Fig 1

Figure 2: Total number of agricultural holdings in France [3] France Fig2

A trend of specialisation for only crop farming is noticeable as well as it can be seen in Figure 3 that there is a steep decline in number of agricultural holdings that have livestock, this reduction is larger and goes faster than the reduction of agricultural holdings. [4]

Figure 3: Number of agricultural holdings with livestock [4] France Fig3

In Figure 4 it can be seen that, compared to the older age groups, young farm managers are really low in numbers, with only around 6.5% of them being under 35 years old. More than half of the famers (of which the age is registered) are between 45 and 65 years old[5].

Figure 4: Percentage of farm managers within different age groups [5] France Fig4

France is also moving to a more sustainable agriculture while keeping agriculture mainly conventional; where use of pesticides diminished by 30%, and uses of manufactured fertilizers diminished as well, namely by 5% for Nitrogen, 40% for Phosphorus and 50% for Potassium. This brings the nutrient balance for Phosphorous down from +8 kg/ha to +1 kg/ha and for Nitrogen from +77 kg/ha to +50kg/ha over the period 1990 – 2014[6].

In the meantime organic farming has been increasing within France with a 3.5% of agricultural land converted to organic during the past 15 years bringing the total organic production area up to 4.7% of the total production area. Proportionally France is on the lower side within the EU with only 4.7% of agricultural land being organic, whereas in absolute terms France has the 3rd largest organic production in the EU with its more than one million ha of organic land[7].

Sources [1] www.rpfrance.eu/l-agriculture-francaise-en-3038
[2] ec.europa.eu/eurostat/
[3] ec.europa.eu/eurostat/
[4] ec.europa.eu/eurostat/
[5] ec.europa.eu/eurostat/
[6] ec.europa.eu/eurostat
[7] ec.europa.eu/eurostat