By: Caitriona Murphy
The number of farms in Europe fell by a massive 20pc between 2003 and 2010, according to the latest EU agricultural census.
Figures for Ireland show that the number of farms fell by 5.4pc between 2003 and 2007, the most recent year for which figures are available.
More than three million farms have been absorbed into larger farm units. In 2003, there were more than 15m farms in Europe but this had fallen to just over 12m by last year, the census revealed.
The utilised agricultural area fell by just two per cent during the 2003-2010 period, proving that the loss of farms was due to farm consolidation and not land moving out of agricultural production. The average size of a farm has increased from 12ha in 2003 to 14ha in 2010.
Seven member states account for more than 80pc of agricultural holdings in the EU27.
Romania had the highest number of farms in Europe last year, with 3.9m units and 32pc of the EU27 total. It was followed by Italy, where there are 1.6m, accounting for 13.5pc of the EU27 total, Poland on 1.5m farms (12.5pc of total) and Spain on 1m farms. Greece, Hungary and France complete the seven states with the most farms.
Only Malta and Sweden recorded an increase in the number of farms between 2003 and 2010, according to the census.
The largest decreases in farm numbers were recorded in Estonia (-46.6pc), Bulgaria (-44.2pc), Latvia (-34.4pc) and Poland (-30.7pc).
The biggest farms in Europe last year were in the Czech Republic, where the average farm size last year was 152ha or 375ac.
The next biggest farms were in the United Kingdom (79ha), Denmark (65ha), Luxembourg (59ha), Germany (56ha) and France (53 ha). The smallest were in Malta (1ha), Cyprus and Romania (both 3ha), Greece and Slovenia (both 6ha).