100,000 French farms have disappeared in ten years

The fall is severe: metropolitan France has lost more than 20% of its farms in ten years, in particular under the effect of the numerous retirements of farmers not replaced, but it nevertheless maintained the surface dedicated to the agriculture, reveals this Friday, December 10 the last agricultural census.

Between 2010 and 2020, 100,000 farms have disappeared and France has only 389,000, according to the provisional results of this decennial census organized by the Ministry of Agriculture.

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“If the decline in the number of farms has been continuous since the 1970s, the downward dynamic is less strong than during the previous decade: the decline was 2.3% per year between 2010 and 2020, against -3.0 % per year between 2000 and 2010 ”, relativizes the ministry.

“More retirements than installations”

“The main reason for this decrease is the age pyramid. There have been more retirements than settlements ”, said Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie at a press conference.

“The demographic challenge is enormous”, he believes. If the number of farmer installations remains stable, it still lacks 7,000 per year to compensate for retirements, he admits.

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Twenty-five percent of farmers are 60 years of age or older, an increase of 5 points in ten years. On the other hand, the share of farmers under 40 remained stable (at 20%). This proves that the sector “Remains attractive”, believes Julien Denormandie.

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On average 25% larger farms

In 2020, 759,000 people have permanent jobs on farms. This is the equivalent of 583,000 full-time jobs, a drop of 12% in ten years.

The census also shows that farms have grown and now cover an average of 69 hectares, or 14 hectares more than in 2010 (+ 25%).

“It is more than three times less than the size of a farm in the United States, it is more or less the same average size as that of German farms”, assured the minister to ward off criticism.

“When a farmer asks us for help, it’s because he’s at the end of his rope”

“It is very, very far from what some would have people believe”, especially during an election period, “Regarding the industrialization of our agricultural models”.

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The useful agricultural area of ​​France [les territoires destinés à la production agricole, NDLR] stabilized, declining by just 1% in ten years. It represents 26.7 million hectares, or nearly 50% of the metropolitan area, which covers 55 million hectares.

Growth in plant and organic production

The photograph of the France farm provided by the census shows a diversified agriculture with now majority plant production.

Currently, 52% of farms are specialized in crop production against 45% ten years earlier. Their number has fallen less sharply (-9%) than the average (-21%) of farms. On the other hand, the number of farms specialized in breeding shows a fall of 31%.

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The dynamic of quality is underway, argues the Minister. In 2020, 106,000 farms have at least one of their productions under signs of quality or origin (PDO, IGP, Label Rouge, etc.)

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This is accompanied by the development of organic farming, which has more than 47,000 farms, or 12% of the total. The High Environmental Value (HVE) label – which is the subject of debate – concerns more than 7% of farms.

26,000 hectares of exploitation overseas

In addition, 23% of farms market in short circuits, direct sales or through a single intermediary, ie nearly 90,000 farms (+6 points in ten years). “This trend is accompanied by a certain enthusiasm on the part of consumers to source locally in order to support producers in their territories”, notes the ministry.

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In addition, the number of farms in the overseas departments amounts to 26,000. Their average surface is 5 hectares. In total, France therefore has 416,000 farms.

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For the Confédération paysanne, these figures are “Alarming on the social, territorial and ecological level”. The union sees in the disappearance of these 100,000 farms “A dismissal plan that does not say its name” and points to the “ current liberal policies which accompany the tendencies of expansion of structures, cerealization in the territories and desertification of rural areas ”. Faced with such an observation, the Confédération paysanne calls for an in-depth reorientation of public policies, and “In the first place of the CAP”.

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A compulsory ten-year European operation, the census aims to update data on French agriculture and measure its weight in European Union agriculture. It is led by the statistics and forecasting services of the ministry. Information collection took place between 1er October 2020 and May 15, 2021. Much of the census was carried out via the internet.

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