A census of agriculture conducted by the National Statistics Office paints a sad, but not unexpected picture of the sector, with less land under cultivation and fewer livestock in many cases.
The census was carried out in 2020 and results were compared with the previous census a decade earlier.
Details issued by the statistics office on Tuesday show:
• Over the 10-year period since the last census, the number of agricultural holdings decreased by 14.8 per cent from 12,268 in 2010 to 10,449 in 2020.
• There were 4,327 agricultural holdings (41.4 per cent) whose produce was solely for their own consumption, while the remaining 6,122 holdings (58.6 per cent) sold all or a share of their produce. The former were responsible for the cultivation of 1,835 hectares (17.1 per cent) of all utilised agricultural area, while the latter cultivated the remaining 8,895 hectares (82.9 per cent).
• The amount of utilised agricultural area decreased by 6.2 per cent from 11,445 hectares in 2010 to 10,730 hectares in 2020.
• The number of reared pigs, broilers and cattle decreased by 43.2, 17.7 and 7.9 per cent , respectively whereas the number of reared sheep, goats and laying hens increased by 36.3, 31.5 and 12.6 per cent, respectively.
• The agricultural labour force declined by 25.8 per cent, from 18,212 persons in 2010 to 13,511 persons in 2020.
• The ageing factor was evident in the agricultural labour force as 23.7 per cent of the workers were under the age of 45 years.
• A share of 45.8 per cent of the agricultural holdings had a succession plan for someone else to continue their agricultural work upon retirement.
During 2020, the total number of agricultural holdings in Malta alone amounted to 10,449. A total of 2,514 holdings or 24.1 per cent were in the Western district. This was followed by the Northern and Gozo and Comino districts with 2,174 (20.8 per cent) and 2,115 holdings (20.2 per cent), respectively.
The Northern Harbour district had the lowest number of agricultural holdings at 768 or 7.3 per cent of the total.
The majority of the agricultural holdings (98.7 per cent) were found to be run by sole holders. Holdings that were found to be managed by groups, partnerships and companies accounted for 1.3 per cent.
Farmers who were both the farm manager and the sole holder of the activity accounted for 93.8 per cent of all the sole-holder agricultural holdings interviewed in the census. Agricultural managers were mostly men, with 11.1 per cent being women. Moreover, managers aged 44 years and younger amounted to 17.6 per cent of the total, compared to 16.8 per cent in 2010 (Chart 1). Managers aged 65 years and over accounted for 35.9 per cent of the total.
The 2020 Census of Agriculture revealed that most of the holdings in Malta were relatively small, with 7,280 holdings (69.7 per cent) managed a Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) of less than one hectare. Medium-sized agricultural holdings that managed between one to five hectares of land amounted to 2,904 (27.8 per cent), while 265 holdings (2.5 per cent) were considered large, managing over five hectares of UAA. Moreover, it resulted that a total of 4,327 agricultural holdings, accounting for 41.4 per cent of all holdings, produced products for their own consumption while the remaining 6,122 holdings, or 58.6 per cent, sold all or a share of their produce through the various available market niches.