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A brief history

The first references to the existence of agricultural censuses ("cultivated land") in the world dating back thousands of years before Christ, in ancient China.

In modern times, we find the first reference to an exhaustive "survey", with systematic and organized statistical data on Portuguese agriculture, with the "General enrolment of Livestock and Poultry", which dates back to 1934. These inventories repeated in 1940 and 1972.

During this period, the following statistical operations have taken place:

  • In 1940, the "General enrolment of Livestock and Poultry ";
  • In 1952-54, the "Farm structure survey of the Mainland";
  • In 1965, the “Portuguese adjacent islands agricultural census”;
  • In 1968, the the "Farm structure survey of the Mainland";
  • In 1972, the "General enrolment of Cattle in mainland and adjacent islands";
  • In 1979, the "Farm structure survey of the Mainland";
  • In 1989, the "Agricultural Census." was carried out for the 1st time simultaneously to all regions of the country;
  • In 1999, the “Agricultural Census”.

Based on agricultural censuses is possible to analyze the evolution of this activity over time.

Portuguese agriculture has undergone significant and profound changes throughout the twentieth century. From the 50's, the rural population began a mass migration from countryside to cities in search of a better life. Agricultural work, hard and badly paid, could not compete with a booming industry that offered a new perspective of life.

Between 1965/68 and 1999, the Portuguese agriculture has lost almost half of its permanent labour force.

Pessoal agrícola permanente remunerado

When Portugal joined the European Economic Community in 1986, the agriculture activity passes to rely heavily on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Since then, it accelerated the transformation of the structure and production methods of Portuguese agriculture that has definitely lost its position as the main economic activity of the country, which until then had.

The number of agricultural holdings and utilized agricultural area was drastically reduced.

Número de explorações agrícolas

Between 1952/54 and 1999 disappeared more than 500 000 farms (over 50%) in the mainland, the break became stronger especially from 1979.

Moreover, the average size of agricultural holdings increased to nearly twice: from about 5 hectares to over 9 hectares.

SAU média por exploração

If, on the one hand, the number of agricultural holdings decreased, on the other there was a significant increase in its average size between 1989 and 1999.

There has been an increasing mechanization of agriculture, which started to use production methods more technically advanced, which led to productivity gains. Also intensified the consumption of certain factors of production such as fertilizers and pesticides, which despite allowing increased productivity, deteriorated the problems of pollution and environmental preservation

The number of tractors in the holdings almost tenfold between 1965/68 (just over 17 000) and 1999 (nearly 170,000).

Número de tractores

Land Use has also changed over time: the arable land, which in 1965/68 accounted for 77% of utilized agricultural area (UAA), in 1999 represents only 46%. Moreover, the surface occupied by permanent grassland increased more than 5 times in the same period of time, from 7% to 36% of UAA.

Ocupação das terras 1965/68Ocupação das terras 1999

Culturas permanentes

However, it appears that the areas under vines and olive trees, permanent crops of great significance and importance in Portugal, remained stable over the time period considered: on average between 1965/68 and 1999, the grove occupied about 44% of the permanent crops and vineyard 33%.

The livestock species grown, with the exception of horses, especially the donkeys that because they are widely used as work animals, lost much of importance that had in the first decades of the twentieth century. ©  Satistics Portugal

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