Agricultural census in Spain

From Statistics Explained

Data from September 2012. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article is part of a series of country-specific essays on the results of the European Union (EU) Farm structure survey (FSS) 2010. The FSS collects information on the structural characteristics of the agricultural holdings (land use, livestock and labour force) and is carried out by all European Union Member States every 10 years as an Agricultural census, with two or three additional, intermediate sample surveys carried out in-between. In Spain, the present analysis of the farm structure includes a comparison with the previous (2000) Agricultural census. Although the reference years of the Agricultural census in Spain were 1999 and 2009 respectively, the common designation is Agricultural census 2000 and 2010.

Table 1: Farm structure, key indicators, Spain, 2000 and 2010
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg) (ef_ov_kvaa) (demo_pjan) and FSS 2000 and 2010
Table 2: Farm structure, key indicators, by NUTS 2 regions, Spain, 2000 and 2010
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg) (ef_ov_kvaa) and FSS 2000 and 2010
Figure 1: Number of holdings and utilised agriculture area (UAA) by UAA size classes, Spain, 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvaareg) (ef_ov_kvaa)
Table 3: Economic size of the farm by standard output size classes, Spain, 2007 and 2010 (EUR)
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010
Figure 2: Number of holdings by main type of farming, Spain 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvftreg)
Figure 3: Standard output by main type of farming, Spain 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat (ef_kvftreg)
Figure 4: Utilised Agricultural Area by land use, Spain, 2000 and 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat (ef_lu_ovcropaa) (ef_oluaareg)
Table 4: Utilised Agricultural Area by land use, Spain, 2000 and 2010
Source: Eurostat (ef_lu_ovcropaa) (ef_oluaareg)
Figure 5: Livestock by main types, Spain, 2000 and 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010
Table 5: Number of holdings with livestock by LSU size class, Spain, 2000 and 2010
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010
Table 6: Agricultural labour force, Spain, 2000 and 2010
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010
Figure 6: Sole holders by gender, Spain, 2000 and 2010 (%)
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010
Table 7: Utilised agricultural area by type of tenure, by NUTS 2 regions, Spain, 2010
Source: Eurostat (ef_mptenure)
Figure 7: Irrigated area by type of crops, Spain, 2010 (%)
Source: Source: Eurostat (ef_poirrig)
Table 8: Key figures on irrigation, Spain, 2010
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2010
Table 9: Number of holdings with cattle and places by type of animal housing, Spain, 2010
Source: Source: Eurostat (ef_pmhouscatlaa)
Table 10: Number of holdings by other gainful activities, by NUTS 2 regions, Spain, 2010
Source: Eurostat FSS 2010
Table 11: Organic farming, number of holdings and utilised agricultural area, Spain, 2010
Source: Eurostat FSS, 2000 and 2010

Main statistical findings

Key indicators

In 2010 there were 989 800 agricultural holdings in Spain, a 23.1% drop compared to 2000 and much in line with the common trend recorded in most of the EU countries (see Table 1).

In 2010 the Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) in Spain represented 47 % of the whole territory; a decrease of 9.2 % was reported when compared to the results of the previous census. In terms of the average size of the agricultural holdings, an increase of 18 % was observed, passing from an average 20.3 ha in 2000 to 24.0 ha in 2010. The overall Spanish livestock, expressed in livestock units (LSU), did only marginally change and amounted to 14.8 million LSU in 2010, a 1 % decrease when compared to 2000.

Table 1 further shows that employment in agriculture dropped by 8.7 % between 2000 and 2010, passing from 2.4 million to 2.2 million. However, the population working in agriculture still represented 9.8 % of the economically active population of Spain in 2010.[1]

According to the FSS 2010 data, there were on average 0.52 hectares of UAA per inhabitant in Spain. This ratio indicates a decrease (-21 %) compared to the one recorded during the Agricultural census in 2000, when the UAA per inhabitant was 0.66 hectares. This result is a combination of both a higher population (+14.8%) and a lower UAA (-9.2%).

Regional key indicators

When comparing the regional data of 2000 with those of 2010, the national trend seems reflected in several Spanish regions. Indeed, every region of Spain shows negative growth in terms of both the number of holdings and the utilised agriculture area (see Table 2), while the average UAA per holding increased in most of the territories.

The largest decrease in the number of holdings was registered in the capital region ‘Comunidad de Madrid’(-33.5%), whereas ‘Cataluña’ showed the smallest drop (-9.5%). The latter region was also the one displaying the least decline in terms of the agricultural area (-0.5%), while Pais Vasco and Principado de Asturias recorded the highest decreases (-25.4% and -22.7% respectively). As regards the livestock (expressed in LSU), the slight decline at national level (-1.1%) was not followed in five regions; a positive trend was most noticeable in Aragón (+18.1 %) and Comunidad Foral de Navarra (+11.7 %). Conversely, the ‘Illes Balears’ registered a steep decline (-31.2%) and five other Spanish regions show double-digit negative percentages.

The number of persons working on farms has nearly halved in ‘La Rioja’ between 2000 and 2010 (-45.8 %); another four northern Spanish regions display decreases of between 30 % and 40 %.

Apart from a general increase in the average size of agricultural holdings, the lower section of Table 2 also reveals the highly differentiated regional farming structures: indeed, the average size in 2010 ranged from 4 ha and 5 ha in ‘Canarias’ and ‘Comunidad Valenciana’ to 55 ha in ‘Castilla y León’.

Agricultural holdings

In terms of the size of agricultural holdings, there is a tendency towards an decrese in the number of small holdings and increase in the number of large ones. According to the FSS 2010 data, holdings with less than 2 ha of UAA (minifundios) dropped from 396 570 to 270.280 (-31.8 %), while the number of holdings with 100 ha or more (latifundios) increased from 48 540 to 51 190 (+5.5%).

Currently, more than half of the agricultural holdings in Spain have less than 5 ha of UAA and occupy less than 5 % of the total Spanish UAA (see Figure 1). At the other end of the scale, farms with 100 ha or more of UAA represent 5 % of all the agricultural holdings but 55 % of the total Spanish UAA.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010 and 2000

Economic size of the farm

In 2010, the economic size of all the Spanish agricultural holdings was 34 173 million Euro, a value calculated by adding all the standard output (SO) per hectare of crop and per head of livestock of the farms. Compared with the SO of the 2007 FSS (EUR 33 363 million), this represented an increase of 2.4% (see Table 3). The gain is mainly attributable to the large holdings with an average monetary value of over EUR 100 000 per year. In 2010, these large agricultural holdings together accounted for 63 % of the total standard output in Spain. Holdings under that threshold reduced their respective output compared to 2007.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

Agricultural holding by main type of farming

In terms of the main type of farming, holdings specialised in olive production are the most numerous in Spain. According to the Agricultural census 2010, they took a share of 21 % in the total number of holdings (see Figure 2). The second most common type of holdings were those specialised in the production of fruits and citrus fruits, the main basis for 16 % of all holdings. Those mainly involved in the production of cereals, oilseed and protein crops represented 13 %.

In terms of the economic size the hierarchy of the holdings changes. Indeed, when using the standard output (SO) for measuring the most important type of farming (see Figure 3) – not considering the ‘other’ category which aggregates type of farming whose SO is minor – the holdings specialised in pigs had the most important share (15 %). The second highest share was taken by farms specialised in poultry (10 %) as well as by those focusing on the production of fruits and citrus fruits (10 %). Holdings mainly dedicated to the production of cereals, oilseed and protein crops (7 %) and the ones specialised in dairying farming (7 %) followed. Finally, holdings specialised in the production of olives accounted for the 6 % of the total SO of Spain.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

Land use

It is recalled that the Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) is the total area taken up by arable land, permanent grassland and meadow, permanent crops and kitchen gardens used by the holding, regardless of the type of tenure or of whether it is used as a part of common land.

It has been outlined that in absolute terms, the UAA decreased by more than 2.4 million hectares after the year 2000 (-9.2%), currently making up 23.7 million hectares. According to the 2010 Agricultural census data, this general decline did not change the structure of the land use in Spain; the respective shares of the area occupied by arable land, permanent grassland and meadow, permanent crops and kitchen gardens remained almost the same as in 2000 (Figure 3). Accordingly, arable land is still the most important category of land in the total UAA, having a share of more than 47% in both reference years.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010 and 2000

Arable land

In Spain, arable land, i.e. land worked (ploughed or tilled) regularly, generally under a system of crop rotation, decreased by 8.7 % between 2000 and 2010. This decrease could mainly be attributed to the main sub categories of arable land, i.e. cereals (-10 %) and industrial crops (-21 %). Other sub categories show higher relative decreases, but these were far less important in absolute terms (see Table 4).

The total number of agricultural holdings with arable land also registered a decrease, from 663 530 holdings in 2000 to 463 420 in 2010 (-30 %) . Overall, the number of farms with less than 10 ha of arable land decreased by more than 40 %. The number of holdings with arable land increased only for the farms with more than 100 hectares; 51 190 of such farms were registered in 2010, 2 100 more than in 2000.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010 and 2000

Permanent crops

In 2010 the area under permanent crops represented 17 % of the UAA, the same share it had in 2000. Still, a decrease of 8% of the area under permanent crops was observed in 2010 when compared to 2000, as well as a decrease of -28% in the number of agricultural holdings. The most important permanent crops, olive plantations and vineyards, registered a noticeable reduction in the number of farms (-19.5 % and -43.1 % respectively).

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010 and 2000

Permanent grassland

Between 2000 and 2010, the area of permanent grassland and meadows decreased by close to 11 %. The sub categories rough gazing area and the area dedicated to pasture and meadow were both concerned. In the Agricultural Census 2010 permanent grassland not used for production and eligible for subsidies, usually used for keeping the land in good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAEC) was recorded – this characteristic was nonexistent in the previous census. It represented 4 % of the total ‘permanent grassland and meadow’ category and 1.3% of the total UAA.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010 and 2000


Statistics on livestock use two different units of measurement: the number of heads (number of animals) and the livestock units (LSU). The latter enables comparisons between different types of livestock.

The 2010 data show a ratio of 0.32 LSU per inhabitant (in 2000 it was 0.38). Indeed, the population of livestock expressed in LSU decreased only slightly (1.1%) over the period 2000-2010 but at the same time range the Spanish population increased by close to 15%.

The small decrease in the overall amount of LSU (see Table 5) masks inhomogeneous patterns within the sub categories. Together pigs and cattle represent about 70 % of the total LSU: whereas pigs have increased by 6.7% between 2000 and 2010, the number of cattle has decreased by 7.1%. Relative changes in the other categories might be also important (poultry: +11%; sheep: -21%, goats: -13%), but in absolute terms these livestock categories are not as significant.

The number of agricultural holdings with livestock decreased by 40.9 % over the 2000-2010 period, from 414 500 to 245 160, a much higher decrease than the drop in the total number of holdings. Related figures decreased for all the Spanish regions; figures more than halved for La Rioja (-55.2%), Comunidad Valenciana (-55.1%), Castilla y León (-51.2 %) and the islands of Canarias (-51 %). As regards the number of LSU, the largest decreases were recorded by the islands of Baleares and Principado de Asturias: -31.2 % for the former, -20.6 % for the latter.

Overall, the farms which suffered the largest decrease in terms of livestock units were the ones with a small number of LSU. The most affected appeared to be the the farms with 5 to 9 LSU (-51.5 %). On the contrary, the ones with 500 LSU or more showed a large increase (+31.7 %), following the general pattern of the EU-27.

See detailed data at Nuts 2 level for 2010 and 2000

Labour force

In 2010, 2.2 million persons were employed in Spanish agricultural holdings, a decrease of 7.1 % compared to 2000 (see Table 6). If the annual work unit (AWU) is used, this decrease doubles reaching 15.5 %. Indeed, in absolute terms the labour force fell from 852 720 AWU in 2000 to 720 860 AWU in 2010.

The decrease in the AWU directly employed in the agricultural sector amounted to 17.5 %. This decrease concerned both the regular labour force (-15.5%) and the direct labour force employed on a non-regular basis (-25.3 %). Especially the latter is noticeable, as Spain long featured a labour force employed on a non-regular basis among the highest in Europe.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level on holders' age and gender for 2010 and 2000

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level on type of labour force for 2010 and 2000

Management practices

Type of tenure

In 2010, on average 61 % of the UAA – corresponding to roughly 14.5 million hectares – was owned by the farmers who actually worked on that land in Spain (see Table 7). This percentage varied within the various territories ranging from 48 % in Castilla y León (where holdings are largest on average – see Table 2) to 78 % in Comunidad Valenciana (where holdings are among the smallest).

The shared-farming agricultural area, which is agricultural area utilised in partnership by the landlord and the sharecropper under a written or oral share-farming contract, or area utilised under other modes of tenure, was relatively small. In 2010 it accounted for the 7.2% of the national UAA, with noticeable regional differences: shared farming concerned about 19 % of the UAA in La Rioja, whereas less than 5% were concerned in Comunidad Valenciana.


Among all EU Member States, irrigation reveals of the highest importance for Spain. Large parts of Spain’s surface are subject to a semi-arid climate with recurring droughts and strong seasonal variety of rainfall. Mountain ranges close to the coasts and soil characteristics make natural water endowments unequally distributed. Over the years, groundwater abstractions have risen and some aquifers appear overexploited. Efforts are being undertaken to improve irrigation techniques [2].

Between 2000 and 2010, the total irrigable area increased by 3.2 %, from 3 478 050 to 3 587 770 ha: this represents 15 % of the total UAA in Spain. However, the irrigated area – which does not include kitchen gardens and any area under glass – decreased by 5.9 % between 2000 and 2010. However, when analysing data on irrigation, it should be kept in mind that the extent of the irrigated area varied over the years according to weather conditions.

In terms of the type of crops, in 2010 those with the largest share of irrigation water were cereals (excluding maize and rise) with 630 350 ha of irrigated area, corresponding to a share of 20.7% in the total (see Figure 7). Olive plantations were the second most irrigated crop (15.8 %), followed by maize (grain and green – 10.3%).

See detailed data at NUTS 2 for 2010 and 2000

In terms of the volume of water, about 16.7 billion cubic metres of water were used to irrigate the UAA in Spain in 2010 (see Table 8). The volume of water includes the water used for the kitchen gardens and area under glass. The estimated value takes into account several factors and was calculated for the first time with the 2010 FSS. Clearly, the amount of water used in agriculture strongly depends on the region and its particularities. Not surprisingly, the relatively humid northern region of Cantabria used the smallest volume of irrigation water in absolute terms (5.2 million cubic metres), whereas the very large southern region of Andalucía was the one which recorded the highest value (3 444 million cubic metres).

More meaningful is the analysis of the quantity of water used to irrigate one hectare of land in a given region. Based on the total cultivated area irrigated in the 12 months prior to the survey and the quantity of water used in 2010 (figures available in Table 8), it appears that the islands of the Canarias are the most “intensively irrigated areas”, as on average 8 362 cubic metres of water were used for each ha of UAA. The Extremadura region follows with 7 452 cubic metres. At the other end of the scale are the Principado de Asturias and Pais Vasco, with 3 474 and 3 247 cubic metres respectively. The Spanish average could be established at 5 470 cubic metres per ha, a value close to that calculated for Castilla y León (5 543 cubic metres).

See detailed data NUTS 2 level for 2010

Animal housing

The characteristics on animal housing were collected within the context of the Survey on Agricultural Production Methods (SAPM), which in Spain was conducted as a sample survey. The main aim of the survey was to get a better insight in the way the housing processed the manure and slurry. The SAPM of 2010 revealed that there was a total of 6 253 930 places of animal housing in Spain (see Table 9). The largest share of the animal housing was in the category ‘Other housing’ (40 %, or 2 486 640 places); 19 % of the total was attributed to the category ‘stanchion tied stables with solid dung and manure’ corresponding to 1 229 170 places while another 17 % of places were in loose housing with solid dung and liquid manure.

The last column of Table 9 displays the capacity of the animal housing in relation to the heads of cattle. The fact that the total number of places exceeded 100 % is explained by the fact that the animal housing capacity exceeds the quantity of cattle actually present.

Other gainful activities

According to the FSS 2010 data, among all agricultural holdings, there were 20 790 holdings (2.1%) with other gainful activities in Spain. These farms recorded additional activities (other than farm work), directly related to the holding and having an economic impact on the holding. Detailed information is available in Table 10, please note that reporting of more than one activity is possible.

The most common activity was the processing of farm products, reported by about a quarter of all holdings (5 120) that declared other gainful activities. Contractual work (agricultural or not) was also quite widespread.

At national level, 17 % of all holdings with other gainful activities were involved in activities linked to tourism. The foundation of this activity may go back as far as the 1960s, when the Spanish government had a policy of subsidising the refurbishment of houses in rural areas which offered tourist accommodation, thus improving the quality of rural buildings and maintaining the cultural heritage, as well providing new sources of income for rural families[3]. At regional level, this additional activity (often limited to the supply of accommodation) was particularly widespread in the Principado de Asturias, in Cantabria and especially the Balearic islands (with 53 % of all farms declaring other gainful activities).

The Pais Vasco region stands out in terms of forestry work: indeed, 3 940 holdings out of the 4 970 holdings with other gainful activities (79 %) were active in this domain.

See detailed data at NUTS 2 level for 2010

Organic farming

Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on the minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain or enhance ecological harmony.

In Spain, the number of agricultural holdings practicing organic farming increased after 2003, from 10 270 farms to 14 630 farms registered during the last Agricultural census. In recent years, this number seems to remain fairly stable. In line with the general growth in the average size (in terms of UAA) of the agricultural holdings, the total area under organic farming has constantly grown, amounting to 342 950 ha in 2010, which corresponds to 1.4% of the total UAA.

See detailed data at Nuts 2 level for 2010, 2007 2005, 2003 and 2000

Data sources and availability

Methodological notes Spain – Agricultural census 2010

The Agricultural Census 2010 was the third Agricultural census harmonised with the European legislation to be carried out in Spain. The editions of the census prior to the 2010 one were in 1989 and 1999. The Farm Structure Survey (FSS) was also held in 1993, 1995, 1997, 2003, 2005 and 2007; these intermediate surveys were sample surveys. The Spanish Statistical Institute (INE) in coordination with its regional agencies implemented the FSS 2010, which, as mentioned, was carried out as an Agricultural Census.

The following items summarise the most important methodological aspects of the census 2009 and were taken from the National Methodological Report referred to under “Methodology”.

Survey on agricultural production methods (SAPM)

In 2010 a unique survey was carried out together with the Agricultural census: the Survey on agricultural productions methods (SAPM). This survey collected data at regional level needed to establish agri-environmental indicators as indicated in COM final 508/2006 and to evaluate the greening of the Common agricultural policy.

Data were collected according to specifications listed in Annex V of the regulation 1166/2008, namely data on tillage methods, soil conservation, landscape features, animal grazing, animal housing, manure application, manure storage and treatment facilities and irrigation.

The Survey on Agricultural Production Methods (SAPM) was carried out using stratified random sampling. Firstly, the series of holdings subject to exhaustive investigation was calculated. Then, the population was distributed into strata formed by cross-referencing Autonomous Communities.

Reference period

For the information related to land and labour force (including OGA), the reference period is the agricultural year 2009: the agricultural campaign from 1 October 2008 to 30 September 2009.

For the information related to livestock, the reference date is 30 September 2009. To measure the rural development and for the section on landscape elements, the reference period is the three years prior to the survey, i.e., 1 January 2007 until 31 December 2009.

Threshold for agricultural holdings

With reference to size, different thresholds are applied in the EU Member States to define the population of holdings eligible for the Agricultural census. In the case of Spain, agricultural holdings were considered eligible when falling within one of the following independent criteria, as reported by the National Methodological Report:

  • Agricultural holdings with at least 1 ha of utilised agricultural area (UAA).
  • Agricultural holdings with at least 0.2 ha of UAA used for fresh vegetables, melons and strawberries (2.01.07), flowers and ornamental plants (outdoors or under low protective cover)( or irrigated fruit and berry plantations and citrus plantations ( nurseries ( or nurseries (2.04.05) or under glass crops (
  • Agricultural holdings with at least 0.1 ha of UAA used for under-glass fresh vegetables, melons and strawberries (
  • Agricultural holdings with at least 0.1 ha of UAA used for under-glass flowers and ornamental plants (
  • Agricultural holdings with at least 0.5 ha of UAA used for tobacco (
  • Agricultural holdings with at least 0.5 ha of UAA used for hops (
  • Agricultural holdings with at least 0.5 ha of UAA used for cotton (
  • Agricultural holdings with one or more livestock units (LSU) and a total standard output (TSO) equal to or above 0.75 of the economic size of holdings (ES).

Common land

Common land is the land that does not directly belong to any agricultural holding but on which common rights apply. It can consist of pasture, horticultural or other land. The treatment of the common land used by an agricultural holding might differ from country to country.

In Spain it represents permanent grassland used as pasture for cattle and land not forming part of the UAA, e.g. wooded area and other lands.

In the case of common land used jointly by several holdings, as it was not possible to assign a specific section to each farmer, the common land was considered as a separate holding and all the land (without the cattle grazing on it) was counted in that holding.

Geo-reference of the holding

To determine the location of each holding the location of the province and the municipality where they are placed were used.

Economic size

Since the FSS 2007, the Standard output (SO), a new classification of the economic size of the holding, has been implemented. The SO has replaced the Standard gross margin (SGM) used before. Nonetheless, for comparability reasons, in the FSS 2007 both classifications are available.

Volume of irrigation water

During the first half of 2010, INE (Spain) carried out the second phase of the Agricultural Census 2009 by collecting additional data on production methods through the Survey of Agriculture Production Methods (SAPM 2009). This included information on the volume of water used for irrigation.

Other Issues

Due to confidentiality reasons, when a characteristic was recorded for less than 10 agricultural holdings values were rounded to zero or ten. This affected the data analysis for small regions like the ‘Ciudad Autónoma de Ceuta’, the ‘Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla’ and the ‘Canarias Island'.


European Commission Rural development policy aims to improve competitiveness in agriculture and forestry, improve the environment and the countryside, improve the quality of life in rural areas and encourage the diversification of rural economies.

As agriculture has been modernised and the importance of industry and services within the economy has increased, so agriculture has become much less important as a source of jobs. Consequently, increasing emphasis is placed on the role farmers can play in rural development, including forestry, biodiversity and the diversification of the rural economy, in order to create alternative jobs and environmental protection in rural areas.

The FSS continues to adapt in order to provide timely and relevant data to help analyse and follow these developments.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Structure of agricultural holdings (t_ef)


Structure of agricultural holdings (ef)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Other information

  • Regulation 1166/2008 of 19 November 2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods and repealing Council Regulation 571/88
  • Regulation 1200/2009 of 30 November 2009 implementing Regulation 1166/2008 on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods, as regards livestock unit coefficients and definitions of the characteristics

External links


  1. A value calculated over the total number of active people aged 15 to 64, as it is reported by the 4th quarter 2009 of the EU Labour force survey (LFS) Population by sex, age, nationality and labour status (1 000).
  2. see also: OECD Economic Surveys: Spain 2010 – ISBN 978-92-64-08996-9.
  3. see the OECD report "The role of agriculture and farm in the rural economy of Spain"