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One in five farms to disappear from Finland by 2020

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

Research by the Finnish farmers’ union MTK and the Finnish government outlines fundamental changes in the structure of the farming industry, with smaller farms being swallowed up by larger-scale agriculture.

A new study also claims that retiring farmers are facing increasing difficulties finding entrepreneurs willing to take over the business.

Approximately 20 percent of the nation's 55,000 farms will disappear by the start of the next decade, the study claims.

A poll by TNS Gallup, commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and MTK, surveyed around 5,000 farmers, and found that the dairy and pig farming sectors look to suffer the heaviest losses.

“Structural change in the farming sector has been fast, and it looks to accelerate even further,” said Minna-Mari Kaila, MTK’s director of agriculture.

The study predicts that by 2020 around half of all Finnish farms which were operating at the turn of the millennium will have disappeared or be merged into larger-scale operations.

As a result the average size of Finnish farms expected to increase, from under 99 acres in 2013 to over 123 acres by 2020.

Despite the disappearing small farms, the amount of land under cultivation is forecast to remain unchanged. The MTK also predicts that animal rearing will continue at current production levels, so long as remaining farms manage to secure their planned levels of investment.

Falling profitability and an aging farming population are to blame for the dwindling numbers, the MTK’s Kaila said.

”We have quite a few farmers going into retirement. And if farming doesn’t look profitable, people then decide to retire earlier. The lack of profits is one reason why farms can’t find replacement owners. It’s clear that young people are thinking twice about joining the industry because insecurity in the agricultural sector has increased,” Kaila said.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.