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Estonia's utilized agricultural area per holding among largest in Europe

Farm in Estonia.
Farm in Estonia. Source: A scene from documentary "Seemnest seemneni" (dir. Katharina Stieffenhofer)

According to the Farm Structure Survey, conducted by Statistics Estonia, the number of agricultural holdings in Estonia has decreased by 700, or 6 percent, over a three-year period. The average agricultural area size in Estonia has now risen to 91 hectares, making it one of the highest in the European Union (EU), behind Czechia and Slovakia.

In 2023, there were 10,700 agricultural holdings in Estonia with nearly 980,000 hectares of utilized agricultural area. This means, in Estonia, there are 91 hectares of agricultural area per holding.

Based on the results of the 2020 agricultural census, the EU average was 17 hectares. The average agricultural area per holding in Latvia was 29 hectares, while in Finland it was 50 hectares.

Still, the majority of holdings in Estonia are small, containing less than 20 hectares of utilized agricultural area and are only involved in agricultural production on a part-time basis. A fifth of holdings have at least 100 hectares of utilized agricultural area. Last year, the 2,400 biggest holdings were responsible for 93 percent of Estonia's total agricultural production.

Eve Valdvee, team lead at Statistics Estonia, said the number of agricultural holdings has decreased in almost all of Estonia's counties over the last three years. "The number of holdings declined the most, by 14 percent, in Jõgeva County, and by 11 percent in Võru County. Harju County was the only region with a slight increase in the number of holdings. The agricultural holdings that ceased their activities were mainly those with older managers, aged over 55, and with less than 100 hectares of utilized agricultural area," explained Valdvee.

The number of holdings with livestock, poultry or beehives decreased more than others. There was also a fall in the number of organic farming holdings.

Utilized agricultural area per holding in Estonia. Source: Statistics Estonia.

The 2023 Farm Structure Survey was conducted using a methodology agreed within the EU. The survey collected information about land use, livestock farming, the management and labor force and other gainful activities of holdings, as well as agricultural production methods and the use of machinery and equipment in additional modules.

As for soil management practices, the survey revealed, that as much as 63 percent of the agricultural area is now cultivated using conservational tillage or zero tillage, which supports energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. In the machinery and equipment module, 1,000 holdings reported the use of variable rate techniques, 740 holdings used robotics in crop or livestock farming (For example, self-driving machinery, berry-picking robots, milking robots, feeding robots and so on), and 970 holdings have solar panels for energy production.

More information is available here and here.

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The Farm Structure Survey 2023 was co-funded by the European Commission. Integrated farm statistics cover only agricultural holdings above the threshold agreed within the European Union.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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