Scotland’s agricultural census shows mixed land use trends

The latest 2023 figures released by the Scottish Government show mixed findings across Scottish agriculture.

The report, published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, includes estimates from the June Agricultural Census. It shows that potato areas decreased by 6% compared to the five year average, at 26,600 hectares and vegetables for human consumption areas increased by 7% to 21,500 hectares.

Strawberries are again the most popular soft fruit grown in Scotland, but saw a decline of 11% compared to the five year average. Strawberries make up more than half the total soft fruit area, total soft fruit area fell by 7% in 2023 at 2,000 hectares.

Livestock estimates show that cattle numbers stood at 1.68 million, a decline of 3% compared to the five year average. Over this period, dairy cattle breeding herds have increased by 3% to 178,800 cows whilst beef cattle breeding herds have fallen 6% compared to the five year average to 394,700 in 2023.

The results also show a decline of 2% in sheep compared to the five year average to 6.61 million. The number of pigs has increased by 5% compared to the five year average, continuing a general long term trend. Poultry numbers in 2023 were 11.69 million, there are more birds for producing eggs (5.98 million) than birds for meat production (4.67 million). No comparison with previous years is made due to methodological changes.

Other estimates from the Agricultural Census show the total workforce on farm holdings remain steady at 66,800 compared to the five year average.

The Agricultural Census was paused in 2022 to make improvements to data collection, processing and statistical methodology used. Following this change, the Scottish Government took steps to collect returns mostly online. More than 70% of responses to this year’s agricultural census were submitted online.

The Census provides an annual update on trends in agricultural activity across the country. It covers all main types of farming and other aspects of farming life such as the availability of labour.

The census was paused in 2022, estimates for 2022 will be published later in 2023.

The full statistical publication is available on the Scottish Government website


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