Land use - Why care? (Latvia)
The shortage of agricultural land is fast becoming a worldwide phenomenon. It is therefore essential to have an appropriate land policy and adequate land-use statistics. Agricultural production offers considerable potential for Latvia’s national economy, particularly given that production potential is twice as high as Latvia’s consumption rate. The challenge is to overcome limited competitiveness and productivity, mainly due to the fact that subsidies are among the lowest in the EU for farming and agricultural land management.
Agriculture is still the main source of production in Latvia, partly thanks to the continuing traditions of agricultural lifestyle and land use. However, recently Latvia has seen a rapid expansion of urban areas, often at the expense of agricultural land and rural areas. Rural-to-urban migration has also caused essential changes in land use, affecting not only land-use statistics but also the environment, e.g. natural ecosystems and human health. Phenomena that have changed the landscape significantly are the re-naturalisation of previously-managed agricultural lands and the felling of timber in forest areas. The main problems which need to be addressed are urban sprawl, abandonment of agricultural land and afforestation in the context of climate change.