French farms get bigger but still smaller than American rivals - census

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PARIS, Dec 10 (Reuters) - French farms have got bigger on average over the past decade but they are still far smaller than agricultural businesses in major rivals such as Canada and the United States, France's farm ministry said on Friday.

A once-in-a-decade agricultural census released on Friday showed that the average size of French farms rose to 69 hectares in 2020 from 55 hectares in 2010 as land from about 100,000 farms that have closed was folded into rival businesses.

Debate has mounted in recent years over the pros and cons of industrial-scale farming in the European Union's largest agricultural producer, particularly regarding animal welfare and the impact on the environment of ever-bigger cattle farms.

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"The size is human scale and very, very, very far from what some people want to make us believe about a galloping industrialisation of our agriculture," France's Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie told reporters at a presentation of the census results.

The census showed there were now 390,000 farms in France, down from 490,000 in 2010, but the overall amount of farmland remained constant at 26.7 million hectares, equivalent to half the country's mainland territory.

The minister said French farms were now on a par in size with Germany but North American farms were still far bigger.

Canadian farms were 332 hectares on average in 2016, or five times the size of French farms, while the average size of U.S. farms was 178 hectares as of 2017, the French ministry said.

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Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by David Clarke

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