Land use patterns vary considerably across Romania. Arable and intensively farmed areas predominate in the south, the east and the extreme west of the country, while livestock farming and permanent grasslands are concentrated in the northern and central areas of Romania. Farm sizes cover a wide range, influenced by land use. Very large corporate farms are concentrated mostly in south and east, while the millions of peasant holdings are scattered all over the country.
With a total area of 238.000 square kilometres and a population of almost 20 million, the rural landscape covers 87.1% of the country and comprising almost half of the population. With a utilized agricultural area of 13 million hectares, more than half of the country, Romania is one of the significant agricultural states in the European Union. Most of the utilized agricultural area is arable (8.3 million hectares), followed by pastures, hay fields and permanent crops (4.8 million hectares) and family gardens (0.2 million hectares).
Currently, the main form of farming exploitations in Romania is still represented by small peasant households. But unfortunately, the number of small farms with less than 1 hectare is falling, while the number of large farms is growing. Due to the land consolidation policies imposed by the Romanian Government, the number of small farms, who used less than 1 hectare of farmland, decreased in 2013 compared to 2010 by about 76 000 farms, respectively by 3.8%. In this period, every hour - 3 small farms disappeared.
According to the Romanian Institute of Statistics, in 2013, the average area of a peasant household (farm owned by people) was 2,02 hectares and represented 55,7% of the agricultural area of the country, while each farming enterprise (farm owned by companies) had an average of 207,49 ha and represented 44,3% of the Romanian agricultural area.
The persistence of the fragmented land structure of Romania through the last 20 years, despite the expectations of many land consolidation experts, is largely due to the important role subsistence and semi-subsistence farming plays in providing livelihoods where pension and welfare payments are extremely low, food prices are similar to that of Western Europe, and access to credit is difficult.
Statistics also highlight that the number of farms in 2013 went down by 6% compared to the data from the General Agricultural Census from 2010, mainly due to the land consolidation process.
A very important division of farms is based on farm ownership: farms owned by people (peasant family farming) and farms owned by companies (industrial farming). In 2013, the number of peasant households (people) was 3 601 776 – 5.9% lower than in 2010. Also, the average surface of large company farms increased from 190,78 ha to 207,49 ha.
Romania holds 7,6% of the utilized agricultural area (UAD) in the EU, with 13,05 million hectares but its alive peasant farming builds up the social element in the EU rural context. About one third (31,5%) of the total EU agricultural holdings are registered in Romania, namely 3,63 million, down 6% compared to 2010.
Just as in the rest of Europe, peasants are ageing: Romania is one of the countries with the oldest farmers. 60.4% of the Romanian farmers are over 55 years old, and only 7.3% under 35. In order for farming and above all, for small-scale farming, to remain that significant in the country, peasants need replacing and farm succession is a topic that must be tackled.
That said, one of the most significant increase in the young/old farmer ratio could be observed in Romania (from 0.07 to 0.12) in the period of 2007-2010. This trend is caused by the growth in the number of young farmers (+86%) as well as by the decrease (-13%) of the number of old farmers.
However, there is a link between the age of farmers and the size of the farm they manage: Only 13% of peasants farming under 20 ha are under 45 years old while 70% are over 55. On the other hand, 35% of farmers managing over 100 ha are under 45 and 37% are over 55.
When it comes to agricultural knowledge and experience, up to 97.5 % of Romanian farmers became so via practical work on an agricultural holding. 2.1% receive a basic training, at an institution specialising in agricultural subjects. Only 0.4% of Romanian farmers received full training before getting involved in a business.
The impact of massive land investments throughout rural Romania is destroying long-term rural development. Land grabbing is understood as using large-scale capital to capture control of physical resources as well the power to decide how and for what purposes they will be used. It is closely linked to and reinforces the phenomenon of rural exodus. It is also part of land markets as well as the liberalisation of the agro-food industries. Rural areas are gradually being transformed into landscapes for the industrial production of agricultural raw materials, to the detriment of human-scale agriculture, which is still important in Romania in creating jobs and good quality food.
The growing phenomenon of land grabbing is pushing up the price of land, putting it beyond the reach of smaller local farmers. It further poses a serious concern for the entire society, as lands, natural resources, wealth and information are gradually concentrated in a few hands. This concentration of power goes against Romanian political, economic and food sovereignty. In this sense, the impact of land grabbing goes way beyond the territory included in the land deals.
Land grabbing is complex. In Romania, people are not forced to leave their land. The rural population, elderly and vulnerable, is generally enthusiastic when massive investments arrive and agree to lease their land; agro-industrial corporations settle legally, through lease or purchase of land.
It is difficult to know how much of Romania’s land is affected. Although there are no official statistics, civil society reports that around 1million to 4 million hectares of Romanian farmland, could already be in the hands of transnational corporations.