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Farm structure in Sweden

From Statistics Explained

Data from August 2008. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
Figure 1: Distribution of the utilised agricultural area, Sweden,2005 and 2007
Figure 2: Description of the labour force in Sweden, 2007
Figure 3: Distribution of the number of livestock units, Sweden, 2005 and 2007
Table 1: Labour force by size of the farms, Sweden, 2007
Table 2: Agriculture holdings by size, Sweden, 2007
Table 3: Land use by size of the farms, Sweden, 2007
Table 4: Livestock by size of the farms, Sweden, 2007
Table 5: Subsistence farming, Sweden, 2007

This article is part of a series of country-specific essays on the results of the European Union (EU) Farm structure survey (FSS) 2007. It provides a brief but nevertheless comprehensive insight into farm structure in Sweden.

The 2007 FSS recorded 72 600 agricultural holdings in Sweden, which represents a 4.2 % decrease since 2005. The farms with at least 1 European size unit (ESU) have suffered a more significant reduction (-13 %). This drop affects all size classes, but with greater impact on farms under 20 ha (-22 %).

Main statistical findings

The number of holdings under 5 ha has been reduced by one third since 2005

In 2007, about 57 500 agricultural holdings in Sweden had an economic size of at least one ESU, compared to 66 300 in 2005 (a 13 % reduction).

These farms made use of 2.99 million hectares (ha) of utilised agricultural area (UAA), (3 % less compared with 3.09 million in 2005), which makes the average size of a holding in Sweden 52 ha. See Figure 1 for the distribution of UAA in terms of farm size, while Table 2 describes the size distribution and other characteristics of the agricultural holdings.

These holdings employed 57 100 annual work units (AWUs), the equivalent of 57 100 people working full time, a decrease of 14 % since 2005. The organization and distribution of the labour force in Sweden is described in Figure 2 and Table 1.

The farms contained 1.7 million livestock units (LSU) in 2007, 3 % less than in 2005. The distribution of livestock by farm size is shown in Table 4 and Figure 3.

Amongst the 57 500 agricultural holdings in 2007:

  • 58 % made use of less than one AWU, while another 14 % made use of two or more AWUs;
  • 42 % used less than 20 ha (compared with 46 % in 2005), while 14 % used 100 ha or more;
  • 54 % of Swedish farms specialised in crop;
  • 30 % were engaged in general field cropping;
  • 21 % were specialised in cereals, oil seed and protein crops;
  • 16 % were specialists in cattle – rearing and fattening.

Amongst the sole holders:

  • 12 % were women in 2007;
  • 52 % were aged 55 or more and 5 % were younger than 35 years; and
  • 67 % had another gainful activity in 2007 (compared with 64 % in 2005).

In Sweden in 2007, 60 % of the agricultural area was owned by the holders.

The family labour force labour force has decreased by 15 % from 2005 to 2007.

There is an increasing tendency towards organic farming, the percentage of farms with area of organic farming rose from 4 % to 5 %, and the share of this area is now 7.6 % of the total UAA, 31 000 ha more than in 2005. Details of land use by size of farm are given in Table 3.

The number of holdings under 5 ha has been reduced by one third since 2005 (around 2 500 holdings less). For farms with UAA between 5 and 20 ha the reduction was 19 %.

The situation for subsistence farming in Sweden is outlined in Table 5.

Data sources and availability

Due to the different coverage of the FSS across Member States, the total number of farms is not comparable between countries. This is why the present analysis, including Tables 1-4 and the figures focus on holdings of at least one European size unit (ESU).

The 2007 Survey on the structure of agricultural holdings in Sweden was carried out by the Swedish Board of Agriculture with the reference day on the 7 June 2007.The reference period for labour force and irrigation was June 2006 to May 2007. It was a combination of an exhaustive and a sample survey according to the EU requirements.

The target population was all the holdings operating in agriculture, horticulture or in animal husbandry and reaching at least one of the thresholds (at least 2 ha of arable land; 200 m2 under glass or 2500 m2 outdoor horticulture; 50 cows, sows or ewes; 250 other cattle or pigs; 1000 poultry). These holdings are recorded in the statistical farm register, which is updated on an annual basis (using statistical surveys and administrative sources like the Integrated Administrative and Control System (IACS), the Bovine Register, other livestock registers and the Organic Farm Register).

The target population for the FSS 2007 accounted about 72 600 farms. The frame was stratified by regions, by size classes of arable land and of different livestock. In practice 125 strata were used. In 89 strata simple random sampling with Neyman-allocation was applied based on the arable land area and on the number of different livestock. In the remaining 35 strata the selection ratio is 100% (for instance for large holdings). A special stratum was surveyed only in the census and not in the sample. It covers the holdings out of the different administrative sources, suspected to have stopped their activity. The sample size was 31 200.

The questionnaires were printed and mailed with a personal code that allowed the farmer to answer on the web through specific software. 10 % of the answers were received through the internet (5% in the case of the FSS questionnaires).

Several administrative sources were used for collecting the FSS data: The IACS for the crop areas, the Bovine Register and the milk delivery database for the data on the cattle and the Organic Farming Register. The data were checked in 2 steps, software was used for checking the validation criteria that were then checked manually. The corrections were possible by using data from the original hardcopy of the questionnaires and by contacting the respondents by telephone.

The non-response was 3% for the FSS questionnaire, and partial non-response affected specially the labour force and the rural development issues. In these cases, after other complementary efforts, imputation was used. In the particular case of rural development, the 2006/2007 survey on other gainful activities clarified the situation. The empty answers were taken as missing values and not as non-existing activities. Therefore the change in imputation method had an inflating effect on the numbers of holdings with other gainful activities compared to the 2005 values.

For each activity (`enterprise`) on a farm (for instance wheat, dairy cow or vineyard), a standard gross margin (SGM) is estimated, based on the area (or the number of heads) and a regional coefficient. The sum of such margins in a farm is its economic size, expressed in European size units (ESU, 1 ESU is a 1200-euro SGM).

An annual work unit (AWU) is equivalent to a worker employed on a full time basis for one year. In Sweden it is 1800 hours (225 working days of 8 working hours per day).


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

As agriculture has 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, the diversification of the rural economy to create alternative jobs and environmental protection in rural areas.

The FSS continues to adapt 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

External links