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Land concentration in the EU has reached alarming levels, study finds

Field Land concentration is a huge problem in the EU (Photo: CC0)

Farmland in Europe has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer large farms while the number of small farms is declining at an alarming rate. A new report published by Transnational Institute, an international research and advocacy institute based in the Netherlands, found that land in the EU is more unevenly distributed than wealth. According to data from Eurostat, large farms defined as agricultural holdings of 100 hectares and more, made up only 3.1% of all European farms in 2013. However, these farms controlled 52% of the total utilised agricultural area in the EU. At the same time, small farms with less than 10 hectares, or three quarters of all farms in the EU, only controlled 11% of farmland. This land inequality translates into a Gini co-efficient of 0.82, putting Europe on par with countries that are infamous for their unequal land distribution such as Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines. Land concentration and farmland grabbing is a particular problem in Eastern Europe. In Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Slovakia, more than 80% of the total utilised agricultural area is in the hands of large holdings with more than 100 hectares. “This process of land concentration and land inequality has particularly affected Europe’s small farms,“ writes Sylvia Kay, the author of the report. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of holdings of less than 10 hectares dropped by a third. The land controlled by small farms declined by a quarter while the total utilised agricultural area occupied by large farms in the EU grew by 15% over the same period. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of small farms in Germany decreased by 79%. The figure was 77% for Slovakia, 68% for both Italy and the Czech Republic and 56% for France. According to the author, land grabbing is also becoming a problem in Europe. Relatively low land prices in Eastern European Member States have been a major incentive for investors to acquire farmland in these countries and establish large holdings. One example given in the report is the Lebanese owned Maria Group, which holds 65,000 hectares of land in Romania. It als owns a large slaughterhouse and a port to export meat and cereals, largely to the Middle East and East Africa.
“If left unchecked, there is a danger that land grabbing and land concentration, particularly when reinforced by other processes and policy biases, will block the entry into farming of young and aspiring farmers, while leading to the further exit of Europe’s small farmers,“ warns Kay. This would have a negative impact on European food security, employment and biodiversity since the decline of small-scale farming in Europe would also mean that the multiple benefits of this type of farming system will disappear. “Small-scale farmers form the backbone of European agriculture,“ argues Kay. “They are strengthening food security by producing healthy and plentiful food of known provenance; they support food sovereignty by building up local markets and shorter producer-to-consumer food chains (…), they are protecting the environment and local biodiversity by practising a form of non-conventional, diversified agriculture (i.e. with fewer chemical inputs and based on natural cycles of regeneration); and they bring dynamism to rural areas by generating employment and sustaining rural community life based on local food cultures and traditions.“ (ab)

Read our summaries of the main topics.

The Original Report

Agriculture at a Crossroads
The original version of the full report, five regional reports and the Synthesis Report in English, with a feature that allows you to make comments and/or add important information.


Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
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