Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Agriculture in Germany


Agriculture in Germany is a small sector of the German economy. It has declined in importance during the 20th century and by 1989 amounted to only 1.6 percent of the West German GDP. Although agriculture's share of East German GDP was twice as high as in the west, even after the two economies are completely united, agriculture's share of GDP is expected to amount to only about two percent. However, despite the sector's small size, it remains politically important.
The number of farms had decreased steadily in West Germany, from 1.6 million in 1950 to 630,000 in 1990. In East Germany, where farms were collectivized under the socialist regime, there had been about 5,100 agricultural production collectives with an average of 4,100 hectares under cultivation. Since unification, about three-quarters of the collectives have remained as cooperatives, partnerships, or joint-stock companies. The others were returned to their original owners - if those owners could be found - or were privately sold, becoming about 14,000 private farms. In western Germany and in the newly privatized farms in eastern Germany, family farms predominate. For the 630,000 farms, there are 750,000 full-time employees. There are also, however, many more part-time employees, and most farms do not represent their owners' full-time occupation.
Although the number of farms has declined, production has actually increased through more efficient production methods. By the early 1990s, a single farmer could produce enough food for seventy-five people, far more than was the case in the 1950s or 1960s.

Agriculture is important for the country's food security and also a provider of jobs. It produces about DM84 billion worth of goods annually and purchases goods for around DM52 billion. Over 80 percent of Germany's land is used for agriculture and forestry. Like other sectors of the economy, it has undergone profound structural changes in the second half of the 20th century. In the western states, the number of farms decreased dramatically between 1949 and 1997 as machines gradually replaced human workers, and productivity increased. In 1950 1 farm worker produced food for 10 people; by 1996 1 farm worker produced food for 108 people. Attracted by a better income, many farmers left agriculture for the industrial and service sectors. Family farms predominate in Germany's old western states, and in 1997, 87 percent of all farmers in western Germany worked on fewer than 124 acres. Individual farm enterprises have also gained ground in the east: in 1997 they accounted for 80 percent of agricultural output from the eastern states, while working on only slightly more than 20 percent of the agricultural land available in the east.  Chief agricultural products include milk, pork, beef, poultry, cereals, potatoes, wheat, barley, cabbages, and sugar beets. In some regions wine, fruits, and vegetables, and other horticultural products play an important role. Agricultural products vary from region to region. In the flat terrain of northern Germany and especially in the eastern portions, cereals and sugar beets are grown. Elsewhere, on more hilly terrain, and even on mountainous land, farmers produce vegetables, milk, pork, or beef. Fruit orchards and vegetable farms surround almost all large cities. River valleys in southern and western Germany along the Rhine and the Main, are covered with vineyards. German beer is world-renowned and is produced mainly, but not exclusively, in Bavaria. Germany has a high level of exports of farm products: in 1997, its exports had a total worth of DM42 billion. Agricultural imports amounted to DM72 billion, making Germany the world's largest importer of farm products.  Important areas of German agricultural policy have transferred to the European Union, particularly in market and price policy, foreign trade policy, and structural policy. EU agricultural reforms in 1992 cut market price supports, replacing artificial prices with government subsidies, and put stricter controls on output volume. Through the reduction of price supports and through additional measures, the reforms promoted more effective farming methods and more ecologically safe agricultural production. The federal and state governments, in their turn, provided financial assistance for agricultural development, land consolidation, village renewal, and construction of country roads. Special funds were available for disadvantaged areas where agriculture was an important economic and social factor. The government's requirements of good agricultural practice required that fertilization and plant protection did not exceed an established maximum, and farmers who used environmentally friendly farming methods received financial compensation in recognition of their environmental policy.  Read more: Germany Agriculture, Information about Agriculture in Germany


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