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Spanish Agriculture

June 18, 2018

Spain has the fourth largest agricultural sector in the EU, producing farm goods worth E47 billion in 2016 or 12 percent of the EU’s E405 billion in farm sales.

Spain had a million farms in 2010, 24 million hectares of Utilized Agricultural Area (UAA), including crop land (11 million hectares) and orchards and vineyards (4 million hectares); the rest was pasture. About 3.6 million hectares of crop land and orchards are irrigated.

Over half of Spain’s farms had less than five hectares of UAA, and these small farms collectively had four percent of Spain’s farm land. Five percent of farms had 100 hectares or more, and they collectively had 55 percent of the UAA.

The most common types of farms were olive, fruit, and grain farms, but the farms that contributed most to farm sales were pig, poultry, and fruit farms. There were 250,000 farms with 15 million animals, and the 5,200 farms with 500 or more livestock units had 40 percent of the total, including 60 percent of the 6.2 million pigs. Pigs were the most valuable animal commodity, followed by cattle.

A quarter of Spain’s farms were in Andalucía and another quarter were in La Mancha and Valencia. Leon had 22 percent of the UAA, followed by 18 percent each in La Mancha and Andalucía and 10 percent each in Extremadura and Aragon. Half of the animals are in Valencia, La Mancha, and Aragon.

The value of Spain’s farm output was E34 billion in 2010, with a third coming from farms that had annual sales of E500,000 or more. Spanish farmers received E7.5 billion in EU CAP payments in 2015, including E2 billion in Andalucía and E1.1 billion in Castile and Leon. The highest per farm CAP payments were in the Canary Islands, where 16,000 farms received an average E18,600 in 2015.

The number of regular workers employed in Spanish agriculture was 2.2 million in 2010, 10 percent of the Spanish labor force, including 620,000 or 28 percent in Andalucía and 310,000 or 14 percent in La Mancha. However, the number of annual work units or full-time equivalent regular workers in Spanish agriculture was 720,000, including 564,000 family workers and 157,000 hired workers who were employed 1,800 hours a year or more. Another 168,000 seasonal workers were hired.

The EU reported 9.5 million annual work units in the 28-member EU agriculture in 2015, including 1.9 million in Poland, 1.3 million in Romania, 1.1 million in Italy, and 0.8 million each in Spain and France. These five countries accounted for 62 percent of the EU’s annual work units in agriculture.

Spain had 236,400 hectares of vegetables and berries in 2010, almost 800,000 hectares of fruit including citrus, 2.2 million hectares of olives, and 850,000 hectares of vineyards. The Almeria region of southeastern Spain has 30,000 hectares of plastic-covered fruits and vegetables that are grown primarily for export. This "sea of plastic" is half of the greenhouse area of Spain and employs about 100,0000 workers, 90 percent of whom are hired seasonally to harvest two crops a year.

In February 2000 there was anti-migrant violence in El Ejido, the center of the fruit and vegetable export industry in Almeria. A 26-year-old local woman was killed by a mentally disturbed Moroccan, which prompted 10,000 Spaniards to attack the 90,000 Moroccans (Moros) who often live in the greenhouses where they work. The National Police restored order, and authorities promised to rebuild destroyed worker housing and to provide work permits to 5,000 illegal workers. Some Moroccan workers criticized the Moroccan government for not sending a delegation to El Ejido to investigate the treatment of Moroccan workers.

In 2000, there were more workers than jobs, which reduced the wages of legal workers to 5,000 pesetas ($30) a day or 50,000 pesetas ($312) a month; illegal workers earned less.

Agricultural census in Spain

Spanish agriculture in 2015

EU aid to Spanish agriculture in 2015

Almeria's Sea of Plastic is visible from Space