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French Vs. Italian Agriculture – What Is The Difference And How They Have Adapted Over The Years

French Vs. Italian Agriculture - What Is The Difference And How They Have Adapted Over The Years

Agriculture differs vastly all over the world, even in lands that are close in proximity to one another, such as France and Italy, but there are actually some agricultural differences that may surprise you! 

In this article, we will discuss the differences between French and Italian agriculture and how they have adapted over the years (learn more about agriculture in specific regions here). 

So, if you’re interested and want to learn more, be sure to read on! 

What Is Agriculture Like In France?

Let’s explore the agriculture of France in more detail.

French Agriculture: Overview 

France has around 74 million acres of agricultural land. ⅗ + of this land is used for tillage and plowing, also known as arable farming. Arable farming is most popular in the western and northern parts of the country. 

⅓ of the land is used solely as grassland to grow crops like orchards and vines. You will be able to find permanent grassland in mountainous areas, such as the Vosges and the Alps. The Mediterranean areas of France are dedicated to permanent cultivation.

France sees a satisfactory amount of rainfall every year, so the country rarely has issues with a supply of water, meaning crops can grow in abundance. 

France is the leading agricultural country within the EU, even though only around 3% of the people are employed within the agricultural industry.

France accounts for over ⅕ of the total output value and is responsible for over ⅓ of the production of wine, cereal, and oilseeds for the EU. 

Globally, France is a huge exporter of many agricultural commodities, with ⅛ of the country’s exports being agricultural. 

French Agriculture: Grains 

The majority of France’s arable lands are used for cereals, and this makes up around ⅙ of the total agricultural production.

The main grains produced by France are maize and wheat. France also grows oats and barley, but they are becoming less and less important. 

In Western France, 1/7 of the agricultural area is dedicated to foraging crops. However, this is a much smaller percentage when compared to the agricultural area in the 1980s due to compliance with EU guidelines.

However, the production of oilseeds has grown substantially, quadrupling since the 1980s and growing to 1/10 of the agricultural land. 

French Agriculture: Dairy And Livestock

Cattle raising occurs in every part of the country, with the exception of the Mediterranean regions. ⅓ of the total agricultural output is animal-related production.

Herds are typically small, having reduced in size when compared to the 1980s due to milk quotas of the EU. These quotas have affected major areas of production, such as Franche-Comte, Lorraine, Pays de la Loire, Brittany, and more.

As a result of this, there has been more of a focus on beef as opposed to dairy cattle, particularly in the Massif Central. 

What’s more, raising poultry and pigs makes up more than 1/10 of the agricultural output value. Production of poultry and pigs takes place in Pays de la Lore and Brittany, due to the vast abundance of dairy-industry by-products that can be used as animal feed.

By contrast, raising sheep is viewed as far less important in France. 

French Agriculture: Agribusiness 

French agriculture has changed in many ways. Farms have been substantially modified and the number of holdings has decreased significantly since 1955. 

In the 1950s, there were 2 million holdings. In the 1980s, this was reduced to 1 million holdings. But by the late 1990s, there were only 700k holdings. 

 However, the size of farms has risen significantly. The average farm size in France is now 100 acres. The largest holdings are primarily located in the Paris Basin. 

France has also seen an increase in the use of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as the growth of crops in controlled environments. Many crops are now grown under contracts which has led to an increase in the output of many products, but a decrease in many agricultural workers. 

French Vs. Italian Agriculture - What Is The Difference And How They Have Adapted Over The Years

What Is Agriculture Like In Italy?

Let’s explore what agriculture is like in Italy in more detail. 

Italian Agriculture: Overview 

Before the 1950s, many cultivable lands of Italy were owned and mismanaged by noblemen (see here for more information on farm land in Sardinia). Many agricultural workers suffered harsh conditions and had limited rights.

After the land reforms of the 1950s, much of the land was redistributed to those who had no land. This increased labor and more efficient land use was encouraged.

However, even though these reforms were partially successful, many of the farms in Italy were too small to be viable agricultural plots.

So, while larger farms felt the benefits of the EEC subsidies, smaller farms felt very little of these benefits until 1975. In 1975 and again in 1978, there was aid purposefully created for upland farmers. 

Today, the majority of farms in Italy are owned and run by families, which is a great contrast to French farms. 

Unfortunately, since the second world war, Italy does not have a good trade balance when it comes to agricultural products, especially when compared to France. Many of the agricultural products of Italy are used domestically thanks to the high population density of the country.

¼ of the plains of Italy are lands under cultivation. This means that the widespread agriculture in hilled areas has only been possible thanks to the modification of the natural landscape, such as through soil management, irrigation, and terracing. 

The Po valley is probably the most fertile area of Italy, since it rains a decent amount there throughout the year. However, elsewhere in Italy rain is rare. In southern areas such as Sardinia, Sicily, and Puglia see only 12-16 inches of rain per year (see more about where to stay in Sardinia, read here). 

Italian Agriculture: Field Crops 

Like France, Italian agriculture focuses on wheat (see more about the importance of agriculture in Italy right here). 5 million acres of Italian land is dedicated to wheat.

Typically, there will be higher yields in the north compared to the south, and this is because there has been an improvement in mechanization techniques in the north of Italy, as well as a terrain more suitable for agriculture. 

Italy exports a lot of rice from the Po valley. It also exports tomatoes from Naples. At the beginning of the 21st century, the area dedicated to growing tomatoes in Italy doubled, and production of those tomatoes quadrupled. 

Italian Agriculture: Tree Crops 

There is a big focus on tree crops in Italy. Their most lucrative exports are grapes and olives. However, olive output is known to be very erratic since olives can suffer from late frosts. Italian wine also sees a great trade balance. 

Italian agriculture is also dedicated to citrus fruits. The majority of citrus fruits come from Sicily, and the rest is grown in the irrigated and sheltered lowlands of Campania and Calabria. 

Final Thoughts 

In France, the agricultural sector has seen growth in output, although it has seen a decrease in workers. However, in Italy, most farms are family-run. 

When it comes to agriculture, France has more land and more global exports compared to Italy. The focus on agriculture in France is dedicated to wheat and maize, forage crops, and animals.

Meanwhile in Italy, the agricultural focus is placed on field crops such as rice and tomatoes, and tree crops such as olives and grapes. 

Agriculture differs vastly all over the world, even in lands that are close in proximity to one another, such as France and Italy, but there are actually some agricultural differences that may surprise you! 

In this article, we will discuss the differences between French and Italian agriculture and how they have adapted over the years. 

So, if you’re interested and want to learn more, be sure to read on! 

What Is Agriculture Like In France?

Let’s explore the agriculture of France in more detail.

French Agriculture: Overview 

France has around 74 million acres of agricultural land. ⅗ + of this land is used for tillage and plowing, also known as arable farming. Arable farming is most popular in the western and northern parts of the country.  ⅓ of the land is used solely as grassland to grow crops like orchards and vines. You will be able to find permanent grassland in mountainous areas, such as the Vosges and the Alps. The Mediterranean areas of France are dedicated to permanent cultivation.

France sees a satisfactory amount of rainfall every year, so the country rarely has issues with a supply of water, meaning crops can grow in abundance. 

France is the leading agricultural country within the EU, even though only around 3% of the people are employed within the agricultural industry. France accounts for over ⅕ of the total output value and is responsible for over ⅓ of the production of wine, cereal, and oilseeds for the EU. 

Globally, France is a huge exporter of many agricultural commodities, with ⅛ of the country’s exports being agricultural. 

French Agriculture: Grains 

The majority of France’s arable lands are used for cereals, and this makes up around ⅙ of the total agricultural production. The main grains produced by France are maize and wheat. France also grows oats and barley, but they are becoming less and less important. 

In Western France, 1/7 of the agricultural area is dedicated to foraging crops. However, this is a much smaller percentage when compared to the agricultural area in the 1980s due to compliance with EU guidelines.

However, the production of oilseeds has grown substantially, quadrupling since the 1980s and growing to 1/10 of the agricultural land. 

French Agriculture: Dairy And Livestock

Cattle raising occurs in every part of the country, with the exception of the Mediterranean regions. ⅓ of the total agricultural output is animal-related production. Herds are typically small, having reduced in size when compared to the 1980s due to milk quotas of the EU.

These quotas have affected major areas of production, such as Franche-Comte, Lorraine, Pays de la Loire, Brittany, and more. As a result of this, there has been more of a focus on beef as opposed to dairy cattle, particularly in the Massif Central. 

What’s more, raising poultry and pigs makes up more than 1/10 of the agricultural output value. Production of poultry and pigs takes place in Pays de la Lore and Brittany, due to the vast abundance of dairy-industry by-products that can be used as animal feed.

By contrast, raising sheep is viewed as far less important in France. 

French Agriculture: Agribusiness 

French agriculture has changed in many ways. Farms have been substantially modified and the number of holdings has decreased significantly since 1955. 

In the 1950s, there were 2 million holdings. In the 1980s, this was reduced to 1 million holdings. But by the late 1990s, there were only 700k holdings. 

 However, the size of farms has risen significantly. The average farm size in France is now 100 acres. The largest holdings are primarily located in the Paris Basin. 

France has also seen an increase in the use of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as the growth of crops in controlled environments. Many crops are now grown under contracts which has led to an increase in the output of many products, but a decrease in many agricultural workers. 

What Is Agriculture Like In Italy?

Let’s explore what agriculture is like in Italy in more detail. 

Italian Agriculture: Overview 

Before the 1950s, many cultivable lands of Italy were owned and mismanaged by noblemen. Many agricultural workers suffered harsh conditions and had limited rights.

After the land reforms of the 1950s, much of the land was redistributed to those who had no land. This increased labor and more efficient land use was encouraged.

However, even though these reforms were partially successful, many of the farms in Italy were too small to be viable agricultural plots.

So, while larger farms felt the benefits of the EEC subsidies, smaller farms felt very little of these benefits until 1975. In 1975 and again in 1978, there was aid purposefully created for upland farmers. 

Today, the majority of farms in Italy are owned and run by families, which is a great contrast to French farms. 

Unfortunately, since the second world war, Italy does not have a good trade balance when it comes to agricultural products, especially when compared to France.

Many of the agricultural products of Italy are used domestically thanks to the high population density of the country.

¼ of the plains of Italy are lands under cultivation. This means that the widespread agriculture in hilled areas has only been possible thanks to the modification of the natural landscape, such as through soil management, irrigation, and terracing. 

The Po valley is probably the most fertile area of Italy, since it rains a decent amount there throughout the year. However, elsewhere in Italy rain is rare. In southern areas such as Sardinia, Sicily, and Puglia see only 12-16 inches of rain per year. 

Italian Agriculture: Field Crops 

Like France, Italian agriculture focuses on wheat. 5 million acres of Italian land is dedicated to wheat.

Typically, there will be higher yields in the north compared to the south, and this is because there has been an improvement in mechanization techniques in the north of Italy, as well as a terrain more suitable for agriculture. 

Italy exports a lot of rice from the Po valley. It also exports tomatoes from Naples. At the beginning of the 21st century, the area dedicated to growing tomatoes in Italy doubled, and production of those tomatoes quadrupled. 

Italian Agriculture: Tree Crops 

There is a big focus on tree crops in Italy. Their most lucrative exports are grapes and olives. However, olive output is known to be very erratic since olives can suffer from late frosts. Italian wine also sees a great trade balance. 

Italian agriculture is also dedicated to citrus fruits. The majority of citrus fruits come from Sicily, and the rest is grown in the irrigated and sheltered lowlands of Campania and Calabria. 

Final Thoughts 

In France, the agricultural sector has seen growth in output, although it has seen a decrease in workers. However, in Italy, most farms are family-run. 

When it comes to agriculture, France has more land and more global exports compared to Italy. The focus on agriculture in France is dedicated to wheat and maize, forage crops, and animals.

Meanwhile in Italy, the agricultural focus is placed on field crops such as rice and tomatoes, and tree crops such as olives and grapes. 

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