EU: Arable land area to continue its decline

The amount of land used for agricultural purposes in the EU will continue to fall between now and 2030, as a result of increasing urbanisation in Europe. But this decline will not stop increased output of certain arable crops over the same period, according to the EU agricultural outlook report published on 18 December 2017.



The report notes that that the utilised agricultural area in the EU has continued to decline over the past few years, and this trend will continue to 2030. The amount of land used for agricultural purposes will fall to 172 million ha from the current level of 176 million ha, with a corresponding decline in the level of EU arable land, from 106.5 million ha in 2017 to 104 million ha in 2030. This continues the long-term trend of the past, and is due in no small part to the increasing urbanisation of Europe, as well as to other ‘artificial’ uses of land. Some 78% of EU land was used for these non-agricultural activities in 2016.

The report also looks at a wide range of crops grown in Europe. For sugar, the report notes that European sugar consumption is changing as more natural, environmentally-friendly and healthier foods become more attractive to consumers. This means that EU sugar consumption is declining, and will continue to do so until 2030, despite overall growth in global sugar consumption expected for the same period. The decline in EU sugar consumption is likely to be around 5%, from 18.5mt in 2017 to 17.5mt in 2030. This shift will favour isoglucose and other sweeteners, sales of which should increase from 0.8mt in 2017 to 1.8mt in 2030.

However, the recent end of sugar quotas in the EU is likely to lead to an increase in overall European sugar production of around 12% by 2030, compared to the average production of the last five years, with EU producers finding new markets elsewhere in the world for their products. EU sugar prices are also expected to decline, resulting in a lower gap between EU prices and world prices at around €40/t. This should lead to the halving of imports and doubling of exports by 2030.

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