Big agribusiness consolidates

  • 2010-12-23
  • From wire reports

TALLINN - On the basis of the first estimates of the 2010 Agricultural Census, the number of agricultural holdings has decreased almost three times as compared to the last census, the 2001 Agricultural Census, show data at Statistics Estonia, reports news agency LETA. At the same time, the total agricultural area has increased 8 percent. This shows that agricultural activity is concentrating more and more into larger holdings.

On the basis of 2010 Agricultural Census data, there are 19,700 agricultural holdings in Estonia, which have at their disposal at least one hectare of agricultural area or which produce agricultural products mainly for sale. Regarding the Census list compiled on the basis of various administrative data and statistical information collected since 2001, altogether a third of the nearly 30,000 holdings announced that they have finished their agricultural activity or that their land use has decreased below one hectare.

The decrease in the number of agricultural holdings has occurred mostly on account of smaller holdings with agricultural area less than 10 hectares. The number of holdings with 10-100 hectares has decreased as well. At the same time the number of large holdings with more than 100 hectares of agricultural area has almost doubled. The very large decrease in the number of holdings does not mean the disappearance of agricultural activity. There are nearly 938,800 hectares of utilized agricultural land in Estonia, which is 8 percent more than during the last Census. The increase can be partly explained by the inclusion of maintained permanent grassland, from 2007.

The agricultural area has concentrated into the disposal of large holdings. On the basis of 2010 Census data, almost three quarters of the agricultural area is already at the disposal of holdings with agricultural area more than 100 hectares. In animal husbandry the concentration is even larger - more than three quarters of the cattle are held in herds with more than 100 bovine animals.

2010 Agricultural Census results of other European Union (EU) member states are not published yet and, therefore, this data cannot be used for international comparison. Still, Estonian 2010 Census first estimates can be compared with the EU’s last large agricultural survey from 2007. The average size of Estonian agricultural holdings has increased within nine years, from 16 to 48 hectares, which is four times more than the EU average (13 ha in 2007). By average size of agricultural holding, Estonia is comparable with states like Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The average largest holdings are in Czech Republic and Denmark.

If in the EU in 2007, holdings with more than 100 hectares had at their disposal 47 percent of the agricultural area, then in Estonia in 2010 the respective share accounted for 73 percent. The concentration of agricultural area into large holdings is bigger only in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. The concentration of cattle breeding into larger holdings in Estonia is also one of the EU’s largest.

The decrease in the number of holdings and concentration of agricultural activity into larger holdings characterize the whole EU, but in Estonia this process is moving several times faster than in the EU on average.
The Agricultural Census was conducted in Estonia from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15. Final Census results will be published by Statistics Estonia on Dec. 15, 2011. The results include an overview of the management of holdings, rental relations, crop production and livestock farming and their production methods, structure of labor force and other gainful activities. The classification by economic size and type of farming will also be published.

The Agricultural Census was conducted for the sixth time in Estonia. Previous Agricultural Censuses were organized in 1919, 1925, 1929, 1939, and after the restoration of independence in 2001. In European Union countries, Agricultural Censuses were conducted in 2009 and 2010. In European Union countries, Agricultural Censuses take place every ten years. The 2010 Agricultural Census of Estonia was partly financed by the European Union.