The Structure of Agriculture

The Structure of Agriculture

Despite the government's efforts to sustain agriculture, by 1991 not one province had as much as 10 percent of the population involved in agriculture and forestry. At the beginning of the 1970s, all but two provinces (Vienna and Vorarlberg) had more than 10 percent of their populations involved in farming. This contrasted markedly to the situation in 1934, when all but those same two provinces had more than 30 percent of their populations working in agriculture. Over this period of two generations, the decline in the Austrian farm population was as fast as any in the Western world.

Of Austria's total area of almost 84,000 square kilometers, about 67,000 square kilometers are used for farming and forestry. Roughly half of that area is forest, and the remainder is arable land and pasture.

Agriculture and forestry accounted for about 280,000 enterprises in 1986, with the average holding being about twentythree hectares. There were about 4,500 corporate farms. Beyond those farms, however, only a third of all farmers were full-time farmers or farming companies. Over half the farming enterprises were smaller than ten hectares; nearly 40 percent were smaller than five hectares. Just as the number of farmers has long been in decline, so also has been the number of farms.

Family labor predominates, especially in mountainous areas and on smaller farms. Only a third of all farm and forestry enterprises were classified as full-time occupations in 1986. A full half of these enterprises are spare-time, that is, less than half of household labor is devoted to farming or forestry. The remainder are part-time. Farms up to ten hectares are more often tended by part-time and spare-time farmers rather than by fulltime farmers. For most farm owners and workers, nonfarm income is as important, if not more important, than farm income.

Despite the decline in the number of farmers and agriculture's share of GDP since 1960, agricultural output has risen. As of the early 1990s, Austria was self-sufficient in all cereals and milk products as well as in red meat. This gain was achieved because of the considerable gains in agricultural labor productivity.

The value of agricultural and forestry output is heavily concentrated in field crops, meat, and dairy products, with most of it coming from animal husbandry. Because large parts of Austria are mountainous, only the lowland areas of eastern Austria and some smaller flat portions of western and northern Austria are suitable for crop production and more intensive forms of animal husbandry. The remainder of the land is used for forestry and less intensive animal husbandry, most of which takes advantage of mountain pasturage.

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