Case studies
1

Massif Central (France)

Extensive beef cattle systems

2

Central and Northeast Spain

Extensive beef and sheep farming systems

3

Belgium (Flanders)

Intensifying dairy farming

4

Sweden

High-value egg and broiler systems

5

Mazovian region (Poland)

Private family fruit and vegetable farming

6

Netherlands

Intensive arable farming with large amounts of rented land

7

East England (UK)

Large-scale corporate arable farming

8

East Germany

Large-scale corporate arable farming

9

Bulgaria

Large-scale corporate arable farming

10

Central Italy

Small-scale farming (perennial crops)

11

Romania

Small-scale farming (mixed farming)

1

Massif Central (France)

Extensive beef cattle systems

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Brief description:

The centrally located Bourbonnais region of France has a beautiful natural environment that lends itself well to farming. With more than 10,000 people working across 5,523 farms, agriculture is a significant portion of the workforce in this region. Within that, beef production dominates the industry, followed then by crops and sheep/goat production. Despite the heavy emphasis, the number of farms in the Bourbonnais region has been decreasing; between the years 2000 and 2010, the numbers of farms fell 25%, mostly within the sectors of beef and dairy farms. The Bourbonnais beef market industry normally relies on the presence of official meat production labels (e.g. Label Rouge) and outside buyers (primarily Italian butchers).

Resilience challenges and risks:

Generally, the market is unstable, resulting in fluctuation of prices and uncertainty of sales. Many farms suffered during the sanitary crisis of 2015 (FCO) with the closure of various markets. The Turkish market, for example, had great potential and once was a major buyer of Bourbonnais cattle, but was forced to cease its purchases due to sanitation concerns. In addition, Bourbonnais farms are faced with a lack of new involvement – farms are decreasing at a rapid rate as no one wants to take them over – and the diminishing demand  for red meat. The normally bountiful grasslands of the Bourbonnais regions are also endangered by droughts, especially in the past two years.

 

2

Central and Northeast Spain

Extensive beef and sheep farming systems

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Sierra de Guadarrama

Brief description:

Spain is the European Union’s fifth largest producer of beef, producing 638,000 tonnes of beef meat annually with a value of 2,866 million euros. The Guadarrama mountain range (Madrid, Segovia, and Avila) plays a big role in the production, housing almost a third of Spain’s suckler-cows. Due to the seasonality of grass production and low fodder in the region, many farms have large territories in order to feed the cows. The sector, overall, has been stable over the past year and is currently in an expansive cycle while the price of beef steadily rises. In terms of market, the consumption of fresh meat per capita has decreased 16% over the past few years, while the consumption of processed meat has increased 24%. The national Spanish market demands 70% of the national beef production. The rest is exported to EU countries (though demand is slightly declining) and non-EU countries like Algeria, Hong Kong, and Morocco (greatly increasing). Additionally, livestock exports increased 38% with a greater expansion to non-EU countries (Libya and Egypt).

Resilience challenges and risks: 

Regarding challenges, many of the region’s farms, especially smaller ones, are disappearing. This is partly due to the industry becoming more concentrated, specialized, and competitive, as well as the farming population aging with no generational replacements. Another risk is that the sector is highly dependent on raw material prices. In 2007, the industry suffered a crisis due to the increase in price of raw materials, production falling between 10-15%. Political factors like the CAP reform, environmental and sanitary legislations also pose potential challenges to the sector. Today, droughts, increased likelihood of extreme weather events, and water scarcity in pasture areas are all challenges that threaten the region’s.

Aragón

Brief description:

As the second largest sheep meat producer in the European Union, both in quantity and value, the sheep sector in Spain is extremely important to the country. Despite this, the sector has been experiencing economic and structural difficulties in recent decades. This is apparent in the constant decrease in livestock numbers: since 1990, the number of sheep in Spain has decreased by 30%. In the North-East region of Aragón, the sheep sector has been especially vital and relevant. But in the past decade, Aragón has lost almost half of its farms and ewes. Today, there are just 2,800 sheep farms and 1.4 million ewes. Sheep meat consumption has decreased dramatically in the past years: in 2003, consumption was 5.94 kg per capita; in 2015, it had fallen to 1.6 kg. Though, sheep exports have risen recently (151.5 million euros in 2014), especially to France, Italy (for sheep meat), Arab countries (for live sacrificial lambs), and recently China (wool for textile industry).

Resilience challenges and risks:

The sheep sector in Aragón faces many challenges. Between its artisanal production and intensive labor, the profitability is quite low. New legislation and health requirements are also expected to increase the cost. In addition, the average age of farmers is increasing and there are no generational replacements, especially due to the discouraging, complex entry into the sector.  In Spain, the internal demand for sheep is low, as lifestyle and consumption patterns have changed to an overall diminishing meat consumption. Environmentally, lower precipitation, water scarcity, and droughts in pasture areas put this regional sector at risk.

3

Belgium (Flanders)

Intensifying dairy farming

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Brief description:

Within the northern Flanders region, excluding Brussels Capital Region, 12% of farms are dairy farms, 50% of which are specialized. Dairy farms have consistently experienced relatively stable prices, increasing on average due to globalization and liberalization of the market, save for 3 periods where the market suffered low prices. Currently, dairy farmers are slowly recovering from the last price crisis. Production has been growing at a rapid rate in Belgium. Its trade balance is usually negative – importing 2.2 million tons exporting 1.9 million tons, mostly to other EU countries. Whereas many dairy farmers quit the business, a substantial number of farms have made structural investments to expand. Organic dairy farming, while still niche, is increasing 100% in numbers and 80% in production.

Resilience challenges and risks:

Over the years, the dominant development strategy of dairy farmers has been intensification (higher stocking rates, more milk per input of labor, more cows per worker and land) and scale enlargement, resulting in a relatively high external input use (fertilizer, purchased feed). The increase in capital intensity means a higher financial risk, especially in volatile global markets. Moreover, recent environmental regulations, combined with high land prices, are a barrier to profit from a high global demand for dairy. The labor force of Belgian dairy farmers faces competition with other careers and pressure from the aging age structure. Though, the Flanders region is not extremely vulnerable to shocks and stress related to environmental conditions; the risk in climate mostly translates to that of price, as weather circumstances elsewhere can impact milk and feed prices.

4

Sweden

High-value egg and broiler systems

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Brief description:

Situated mainly in the south, the Swedish eggs and broilers production is generally located in plains districts dominated by cereal production and is run almost entirely by family farms. Since 2000, the poultry sector in Sweden has been undergoing fast technological changes while adapting to new issues relevant for sustainable production. In 2016, the annual egg production amounted to 139.5 thousand tons, with 66% of that being free-range and 16% organic. In regards to broiler meat, only 0.26% of the 148.5 thousands tons are organic. The Swedish commercial poultry industry is dominated by production for the domestic market, with the national egg demand increasing continuously.

Resilience challenges and risks:

In terms of challenges and risks towards resilience, the consumption and production of eggs and poultry meat in Sweden has been constantly increasing. Overall, there is a low level of self-sufficiency, causing Sweden to rely on imports to keep up with demands. Fast changes in consumer preferences, such as animal welfare and food quality, have required the industry to adopt new production systems, like free-range and organic. As Sweden is among the countries with the lowest levels of antibiotics use per slaughtered meat, its poultry production is susceptible to acute animal health issues (pathogens). Additionally, the industry is vulnerable to disruptions in supplies, such as ventilation, water, fodder, and light.

5

Mazovian region (Poland)

Private family fruit and vegetable farming

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Brief description:

The Mazovian region (Mazowsze i Podlasie) located in Central-East Poland is dominated by horticulture. Overall, in Poland, though vegetable production covers only 1.2% of the total crop areas, it accounts for 9% of Poland’s calagricultural value. Fruit production, especially apple, plays a big part in Poland’s agricultural sector – being the largest producer of apples in the EU and the fourth largest in the world. The majority of Mazovian farms are small, family run, and highly specialized.

Resilience challenges and risks:

The overall production of these farms faces a number of challenges. For one, there is a lack of season-based workers, caused by emigration and outflow from the villages. Environmentally, Poland’s production is also dependent on the amount of pollinators and pests present; it is also especially vulnerable to fungal diseases and hail. Politically, recent regulations concerning foreign workers have hindered many farms. Uncertainty of sales and fluctuation in prices of goods and inputs have been exacerbated by Russia’s embargo, essentially cutting off a trade that had accounted for more than half of Poland’s apple exports.

6

Netherlands

Intensive arable farming with large amounts of rented land

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Brief description:

In the rural areas of northern Netherlands, the regions of Veenkolonien and Oldambt have roughly 7,500 specialized crop farms and 2,500 mixed farms. The arable farms in these areas are mostly family-owned and run, but most are falling on hard times monetarily. From 2003 to 2016, the number of farms with broadened economic activities – like selling at the farm and agro-tourism – had decreased by half.  Within the market, prices for agricultural products have been fluctuating and have largely decoupled from that of the national production. At times, the farm gate prices have actually been below production cost prices, putting a lot of pressure on Dutch farmers economically.

Resilience challenges and risks:

In the Netherlands, farming has proven to be a very capital intensive industry – essentially making it only possible to become a farmer if one’s family already owns a farm. This has resulted in a decreasing population density in the rural areas, as well as an aging farmer population. The agriculture itself in the Netherlands is very vulnerable to fungal diseases, has quite sensitive soil (in terms of water-holding and drainage, making it susceptible to drought and extreme wet conditions), and has been plagued by pests (nematodes) that restrict the cultivation of crops.

7

East England (UK)

Large-scale corporate arable farming

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Brief description:

With its extensive rural and flat, fertile land, East of England is highly productive in arable crops and contributes more to the UK’s agricultural gross value than any other region. Production includes a wide variety of crops, but cereals (especially wheat and barley) are the most important, accounting for one third of the UK’s entire cereal crop. The farms are large-scale, capital-intensive corporate and family farms. Over the past decade, a process of concentration has been ongoing in East of England. The number of agricultural holdings has decreased by about 44% but the amount of farmed area has remained stable, demonstrating a progressive concentration towards bigger holdings. But, with growing challenges and risks, East of England’s crops are declining in price.

Resilience challenges and risks:

For example, the banning and restricting of some key agro-chemicals have made it more difficult for farmers to deal with pests and diseases, which can potentially result in an inappropriate control of diseases and food safety concerns. In addition, the future of the agriculture business remains uncertain – young farmers and new entrants will need to adapt to the significant changes of production and global market conditions, especially with the increasing corporatization of farms. Between Brexit’s new agricultural policies and CAP’s future changes, East of England also faces significant challenges politically. Commodity price volatility, vulnerability to seasonal weather variation, and long term climatic change are all risks to the region’s production.

8

East Germany

Large-scale corporate arable farming

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Brief description:

Altmark, a region comprising the Saxony-Anhalt districts of Stendal and Altmarkkreis Salzwedel, has a comparatively high proportion of grassland, making it ideal for observing the large-scale agricultural structures of East Germany. Though the soil quality and yield levels are rather poor, the Altmark region accounts for 20% of Saxony-Anhalt’s arable land, 40% of the dairy cows, and 53% of the specialized dairy farms. Evidently, it is a major milk-producing area in East Germany, especially due to its large-scale approach to agriculture – dairy cows are usually kept in herds of one hundred to more than five hundred. In terms of types, individual full-time, part-time, and partnerships predominate the Altmark scene. Even though company farms only account for 10% farms, they use almost 45% of the agricultural land. The farms have a high share of loan capital and rented land, and therefore, a relatively low capital base.

Resilience challenges and risks:

The farms in the Altmark region are experiencing their share of challenges and risks. Emigration, an aging population, and general decrease in workforce in rural areas all endanger the production. The low proportion of high quality arable land is concerning, and with climate change, the state is only expected to worsen. Additionally, the Altmark region may be seen as economically vulnerable due to the rather weak capital base per hectare, high share of rented land, and the dominance of hired labour.

9

Bulgaria

Large-scale corporate arable farming

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Brief description:

A well-developed agricultural region favoured by nature, North-East Bulgaria’s land is mostly used for farms. With a long history and tradition of crop production, agriculture is a priority sector for this region: the final agricultural output in 2016 equated to 3,763 million euros – with more than half of that created by cereal and industrial crops. The majority of these farms are specialized, intensive and owned by either sole proprietor or corporate companies. As the Bulgarian input market is highly dependent on the international one, globally high prices and fluctuations have affected the price of the crops. On the other hand, the increasing international demand for grains and oilseeds have led to some of the highest growth in farmers’ prices in cereals and industrial crops.

Resilience challenges and risks:

With climate change, numerous environmental risks have arisen in Bulgarian farms, such as extreme weather and water and air contamination. Politically, Bulgaria’s instability and Russia’s embargo are both challenges to be overcome. Bulgaria’s monoculture agriculture cannot satisfy such challenges posed by climate change and politics, in addition to the ones caused by price volatility and the increasing lack of a skilled labor force (depopulation of rural areas and aging population).

 

10

Central Italy

Small-scale farming (perennial crops)

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Brief description:

Italy is the world’s second largest producer of hazelnuts, right after Turkey. Around ⅓ of its production comes from the Lazio region, where it generates 73 million euros. Viterbo, a province of Lazio, produces 94% of said hazelnuts with its 6000 farms. Most (89%) are small farms with 2-10 ha; 10% are medium size with 10-50 ha; and 1% are large, highly specialized non-family farms with more than 50 ha. In traditional production areas, farms don’t use irrigation and are less prone to the impact of heat waves. But, new settlements in less suitable areas are facing an increasing amount of environmental pressure as a result from climate change and diminishing water availability.

Resilience challenges and risks:

One of the biggest challenges to Viterbo’s hazelnut sector is Turkey, who still dominates globally. Turkey has the power to influence the world’s hazelnuts prices through its policies, resulting in price uncertainty and potentially threatening Italian farm economic sustainability. Two years ago, the production level in Lazio was at a record low, causing hazelnut prices to increase and requiring Turkey to lend support to Italian producers. That temporary dependence on Turkey created an incentive for Italian farmers to increase production and stimulate new hazelnut installations. But producing of hazelnuts is a slow process – their fruition taking up to 10 years after plantation. Other challenges to Virterbo’s production include the low amount of hazelnut cultivars and the aging farmer population (more than 50% of farms are run by people over 65 years old). In terms of quality, water scarcity, increase in temperature, and new pests all are negative impacts.

 

11

Romania

Small-scale farming (mixed farming)

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Brief description:

The North-East of Romania is traditionally dominated by very small mixed farms, most of which are family run. Compared to the rest of Romania, the North-East has the lowest paid labor input, lowest total output (crop and livestock), as well as the lowest farm net income, family farm net income, and farm net value. It also has the most rented area and most unpaid labour in the country. Additionally, the on-farm consumption is very high (more than 50%) in this region. Production is mostly cereals (maize and wheat), oilseeds (sunflower), and fodder crop. There are quite few producers’ associations, and consequently poor bargaining power in relation to large industrial processing units.

Resilience challenges and risks:

In two of the North-East’s counties, there is actually a positive immigration flow into the rural areas. Meanwhile, in the third county, there is net migration from the rural areas which results in a season-based lack of workers. Much of the young managerial staff is moving onto non-agricultural activities, and there is an inadequacy of vocational education in rural areas to meet the real demand of skilled workers in agriculture. Over the years, Romania has been experiencing fluctuations in prices of goods and inputs, as well as uncertainty of sales. Moreover, there is an increased demand for high quality, organic, and processed products that is currently not met by the supply.