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Trends in the EU Agricultural Land Within 2015-2030


JRC nr: JRC113717
Publication date
20 November 2018


In 2015 agricultural land is estimated to cover 42% of all EU land area. The arable land accounts for the largest share – 56%, followed by livestock grazing (25%), mixed crops (13.5%) and various permanent crops (5.5%). Within 2015-2030 the EU agricultural land is projected to shrink by 1.1%, chiefly driven by the decline in the two principal groups – arable land and livestock grazing – by 4.0% and 2.6% respectively. Mixed crops are expected to expand by 11%. In the group of permanent crops, olive trees are likely to grow at the expense of vineyards.

Drastic changes in agricultural land at national level are not forecast by 2030. The seven largest EU countries – France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy, Romania and the United Kingdom – account for about 70% of all Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) both in 2015 and 2030. In relative terms, Denmark, Hungary and Ireland top the EU list with more than 60% of their surface being occupied by agricultural land both in 2015 and 2030.

The diversity of landscape and climatic conditions significantly affect the spatial patterns of agricultural production in the EU. Arable land dominates in the majority of countries, exceeding 70% in Cyprus, Hungary, Denmark and Slovakia. Within 2015-2030 it is expected to enlarge by more than 20% in Belgium, the Baltic States, Spain and Malta, while in Slovakia and Germany it will shrink. Livestock dominates in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and especially – in Ireland (>80%), but within 2015-2030 it will decline in all these countries, except for Luxembourg, as well as in Austria, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden and Finland. Gains in livestock are likely (besides Luxembourg) in Portugal, Czech Republic and Slovenia. Mixed crops are particularly important for Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Finland and Slovenia. Cutbacks are projected for Slovenia, Belgium, Spain and Latvia, while large growth is likely in Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Croatia, Ireland, Latvia and Sweden. Permanent crops are widely found in the Mediterranean countries. Vineyards will shrink the most, mainly in Cyprus and France, but Cyprus will see the largest relative growth in fruit trees in the EU.

Due to a set of landscape, climatic and socio-economic factors, large (more than 3 times) inter-regional variations in the share of agricultural land over total area are observed in Southern Europe – Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, but also Austria and the United Kingdom. Central and Eastern Europe (the Baltic States, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania) are peculiar with a more homogeneous and at the same time – elevated share of agricultural land.

Within 2015-2030 noticeable (>15%) expansions of agricultural land are projected for a number of regions in Southern and South-Eastern Europe – Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia in particular (owing to the access to the CAP instruments and measures), Greece and Romania. Growth of similar magnitude, owing to the Climate Change, is also expected for Scotland in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Latvia.