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Agricultural intensity

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
Topics: ,

Assessment made on  01 Jan 2001

Generic metadata


Agriculture Agriculture (Primary theme)

DPSIR: Driving force


Indicator codes
Geographic coverage:

Policy issue:  In which direction is the agriculture sector developing?

Key messages

  • The trend towards a more centralised and intensive agriculture shows no signs of slowing, with productivity rising while the actual number of producers has fallen.


Key assessment

Between 1975 and 1995, for example, more than 3 million farms disappeared in the EU12 and the amount of agricultural land dropped, but the 'gross value added' - a measure of agricultural productivity - still rose by 18%.

Roughly the same period saw the area devoted to permanent pasture shrink by 11% as farmers focused on field crops. In fact, between 1980 and 1997, the number of farms with livestock dropped by 47% - although the actual number of cattle only fell by 5%. And while the number of dairy cows dropped by 20%, milk production remained stable.

The number of pigs, however, rose from 88 million in 1980 to 108 million in 1997. The appearance of large-scale pig farming was particularly marked in Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, where the average piggery has 550 animals - several times the EU average. Small-scale pig farming (under 25 animals per farm) has almost disappeared.

The appearance of such large-scale animal husbandry brings its own problems, with farms importing large amounts of animal feed and producing more animal manure than local farms need, leading to significant pollution problems (see ' nutrient surplus').

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