On the basis of the revised data of the Agricultural Census there were 19,600 agricultural holdings in Estonia in 2010, of which 5% produced three quarters of the standard output of the whole state. Almost 900 large holdings had in their possession more than half (55%) of the utilized agricultural area and 83% of the livestock units. In 2010, large holdings provided work for 11,000 full-time employees and their standard output per annual work unit was nearly 41,000 Euros.
At the same time almost three quarters of holdings are small holdings who produce only 5% of the standard output. 3,500 agricultural holdings do not produce agricultural output and only maintain their agricultural land in good agricultural and environmental conditions.
The high percentage of rented land also characterises the agriculture of Estonia. In 2010, the owners used only 40% of agricultural area (in large holdings 30%), the rest was rented land or land used free of any charge. The owners of agricultural holdings of legal persons (companies) are mainly Estonian residents. In the possession of almost a hundred of agricultural holdings belonging to foreign entrepreneurs there is only 4% of agricultural area of Estonia, but also 6% of cattle, 40% of pigs and 76% of poultry.
Compared to the previous 2001 Agricultural Census, the number of agricultural holdings has decreased by almost thrice in 2010. The number of persons involved in agricultural work and their labour input has decreased more than twice. The agricultural area has increased 8% and is 941,000 hectares, of which 12% is still maintained permanent grassland not used for production purposes. So compared with the European Union (EU) average there is much more land in Estonia which is not used for production purposes, but only maintained in good agricultural and environmental conditions and eligible for the EU supports (the EU average in 2007 was 0.9%).
About a third of persons involved in agricultural work have also other gainful activity not directly related to the holding and for 85% of them agriculture is a subsidiary activity. 13% of agricultural holdings have also other non-agricultural gainful activities where the land, buildings or equipment of the holding are used (contractual work, forestry, tourism, etc.). More than 1,300 holdings hope to earn additional income from organic farming – compared to 2003 the organic farming area and area in conversion period to organic farming has increased by three times and is now almost 122,000 hectares already. In addition to searching for other sources of income, it has been tried to decrease the production costs by using modern production methods. Already more than a quarter of the cultivated land has been cultivated by using alternative production methods, i.e. conservation tillage or zero tillage, which enables to optimise production costs but is also environmental friendly.
The Agricultural Census was conducted in Estonia from 1 September to 15 November 2010. The Agricultural Census was obligatory for all the Member States and partly financed by the European Union.