Agriculture and farming in France main information
France is the first European agricultural producer with the biggest utilized agricultural acreage (UAA)of nearly 30 million hectares, more than half of the French territory. This area is divided into 3 major crops: 63% of cropland (cereal and forage crops mainly), 34% of grassland and 3% of perennial crops, vineyards and orchards. Areas in which arable farming is dominant lie mostly in the northern and western regions of the country, centred on the Paris Basin. Permanent grassland is common in upland and mountainous areas such as the Massif Central, the Alps, and the Vosges. Conversely, the major areas devoted to permanent cultivation lie in Mediterranean regions. France ranks seventh in the world in crop production behind China, the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and Indonesia. In the majority agricultural products, France boasts a production volume that ranks among the top 10 in the world. France accounts for 18 % of European agricultural production, ahead of Italy and Spain.Among the major agricultural products, France stands out in the volume of wheat, barley and corn in grain, potatoes and sugar beet in root vegetables, and beef, pork, raw milk and cheese in livestock. In addition, France is a major world exporter of agricultural commodities, and approximately one-eighth of the total value of the country’s visible exports is related to agriculture and associated food and drink products.
While France is still Europe's agricultural powerhouse, the number of farmers is steadily falling, by almost 2 percent every year. In 2019, France had approximately 430 000 farms. The actual average size of farms (around 137 acres) is much larger than 70 years ago.Large holdings are located primarily in the cereal-producing regions of the Paris Basin, while small holdings are most common in Mediterranean regions, the lower Rhône valley, Alsace, and Brittany. Important technical changes have also occurred, ranging from the increased use of intermediate products such as fertilizers and pesticides to the widespread use of irrigation (nearly one-tenth of agricultural land is now irrigated) and the growth of crops within controlled environments, such as under glass or plastic canopies.
In 2020 around 824 000 people lived and worked on farms in France. Employment in agriculture (% of total employment) (modeled ILO estimate) in France was reported at 2.38 % in 2020, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources. It is worth to underline that, an ageing workforce and a lack of new blood mean that around 15 percent of the current contingent is set to retire within the next five years, leaving many a homestead with no one to take over. The agri-food industry is a major player in French economy and a vector of competitiveness and attractiveness at national, European and global levels. It is also a sector of extraordinary diversity, whose worldwide fame relies not only on major groups and well-known brands, but also on many SME / VSE that boost our territories by their innovation capacity and the quality of their products.
GrainsThe major field crops (cereals, oilseed, protein crops, beet…) represent a little over 45 % of agricultural area. Production of cereals is highly condensed in France: 23% of the cultivators produce 64% of the volume of cereals. Wheat and corn (maize) are the main grains, with other cereals, such as barley and oats, becoming progressively less important. Wheat, which represents 54% of the French cereals and covered 12 million acres, is mostly located in the west of France and around the Parisian basin, where both natural conditions and (in the former case) proximity to markets favour such activity.Around 3.7 millions acres of barley are planted mostly in the North-east quarter of France. Barley represents 17% of the French production of cereals. The majority of the production of corn is used to feed animals. Two major areas produce corn: the south-east of France and Alsace. Like barley, corn represents 17% of the French production of cereals.
Fruits and vegatablesThe fruit and vegetable sector provides 450,000 direct jobs and counts about 75,000 companies. The amount of French territory covered by orchards decreased by around 14% between 2000 and 2019. During the same time, the size of each orchard farm increased by 17% and reached 19 acres. Fruit production (mainly of apples, pears, and peaches) is largely concentrated in the Rhône and Garonne valleys and in the Mediterranean region. Apple is the first fruit followed by nuts. Vegetables are also grown in the lower Rhône and Mediterranean areas, but a large part of output comes from western France (Brittany) and the southwest and the northern région of Hauts-de-France, where sugar beets and potatoes are produced. Tomatoes and carrots are the two main vegetables grown in France.
VineyardsFrance is probably more famous for its wines than any other country in the world. France’s extensive land area—of which more than half is arable or pastoral land and another quarter is wooded—presents broad opportunities for wine making. The country’s varied relief and soils and contrasting climatic zones further enhance this potential. Rainfall is plentiful throughout most of France, so water supply is not generally a problem. Viticulture and wine making are concentrated principally in Languedoc-Roussillon and in the Bordeaux area, but production also occurs in Provence, Alsace, the Rhône and Loire valleys, Poitou-Charentes, and the Champagne region. Vineyards cover 1.9 million acres and belong to around 85,000 producers. Average yerly harvest is estimated at around 50.5 million hectoliters; 45% is red wine, 43% is white Wine and 12% is rosé. More than 90% of the production benefits from a designation, either PDO (Protected Geographical Indication, the European quality symbol) or AOP (the French equivalent of PDO).
Dairying and livestockFrance holds the EU’s biggest cattle herd. 19 million head of cattle including 3,6 million dairy cows. Cattle raising occurs in most areas of the country (except in Mediterranean regions), especially in the more humid regions of western France. The main types of animal production : milk 36 %, cattle 22 %, poultry 14 %, pigs 13 %, veal calves 6 %, eggs 4 %, sheep and goats 3 %, other 3 %.Animal-related production accounts for more than one-third of the total value of agricultural output. In general, herds remain small, although concentration into larger units is increasing. Overall, however, the number of cattle has been falling since the early 1980s, largely as a result of EU milk quotas. These have adversely affected major production areas such as Auvergne, Brittany, Basse-Normandie, Pays de la Loire, Rhône-Alpes, Lorraine, Nord–Pas-de-Calais, and Franche-Comté.
39% of the French production of dairy cows is located in the West part of France. The suckled cows, however, are located in the center area of France, which is mostly covered by pastures. French has an old cheese tradition (link to products of ‘terroir’) and tries to keep a large number of dairy breeds, each one linked to a specific French cheese.
France is world-famous for animal breeds. Since the 60’s, French breeds have gained more and more importance. Selected breeding animals are exported in many countries. In the dairy sector, France is the birthplace of several specific breeds such as Normande, Montbéliarde, Brune, Abondance, Tarentaise, Pie rouge des plaines, and many more! The Charolaise, Salers or Limousine are very famous beef meat breeds.
France has the largest livestock production in Europe with 19.1 million heads in 2011. One result has been an increasing orientation toward beef rather than dairy breeds, notably in the area of the Massif Central. The raising of pigs and poultry, frequently by intensive methods, makes up more than one-tenth of the value of agricultural output. Production is concentrated in the régions of Brittany and Pays de la Loire, encouraged originally by the availability of by-products from the dairy industry for use as feed. Sheep raising is less important. Flocks graze principally in southern France on the western and southern fringes of the Massif Central, in the western Pyrenees, and in the southern Alps.
In 2012 the goat herd reached more than 1.3 million heads; more than 30% are from the Poitou Charente area. However, the number of goats is decreasing due to the soar of producing costs and the reduction of dairy price. In 2012, 128 million gallons of goat milk were produced. The amount of goat meat also declined.
1.5 million sheep are bred for milk in France, mostly in the South east regions of France: Midi Pyrénées, Aquitaine, Languedoc Roussillon, and Corsica. France is the third largest producer of pork meat in Europe, and about half of the French pigs come from Brittany. Besides the classic breeds well-represented throughout Europe, six local breeds, like the Basque and the Gascon from southwest of France, continue to exist as former regional French breeds. As they are endangered, genetic programs are committed to saving them. In 2012, France produced 1.8 million tons of poultry meat; being the first producer of poultry among European countries. 1 million tons of poultry meat is chicken, 0.3 million tons are turkey and 0.2 million tons are duck. In 2012, 12.5 billion of eggs and 52.9 million tons of rabbit were produced.
FishingDespite the extent of France’s coastlines and its numerous ports, the French fishing industry remains relatively small. Annual catches have averaged about 700,000 tons since the mid-1970s, and by the 21st century there were fewer than 16,500 fishermen. Activity is concentrated in the port of Boulogne in Nord–Pas-de-Calais and to a lesser degree in ports in Brittany such as Concarneau, Lorient, and Le Guilvinic. France is also known for its aquaculture, with activity increasing over recent years along the coastal waters of western France. Oyster beds are found particularly in the southwest, centred on Marennes-Oléron.
The future of agricultue in FranceAgri-food is a sector of extraordinary diversity, whose worldwide fame relies not only on major groups and well-known brands, but also on many SME / VSE that boost our territories by their innovation capacity and the quality of their products. Those companies generated sales revenue of €198 billion in 2018.
France's food self-sufficiency rate, on a calorie basis, calculated from daily calorie intake per capita, is 129% compared to Japan's 39%. Often referred to as the “breadbasket of Europe,” the current outlook for French agriculture is, however, by no means optimistic. The excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers to improve productivity has made environmental pollution a serious problem. These problems are common issues faced by the agricultural industries of not only France, but also other developed countries. Marketing systems have also been modified, as an increasing proportion of output is grown under contract. Together such changes have led to a remarkable increase in output of major agricultural products, but they have also resulted in a large reduction in the number of agricultural workers and the increased indebtedness of many farmers, and the related negative effects on the environment have given rise to the organic farming movement.