A survey of agricultural holdings conducted by the National Statistics Office has revealed that almost all holdings are owned by individual farmers with a mere 1.6 per cent owned by partnerships and only 0.3 per cent owned by companies.
The survey, which also deals with livestock, confirms the decline of the poultry industry since EU membership in 2004.
As expected, when compared to the total utilised agricultural area recorded in the Farm Structure Survey of 2003, there were no apparent changes in the holding size structures and the majority of agricultural holdings are relatively small. A total of 5,520 agricultural holdings have less than 0.5 ha of utilised agricultural area, of which 190 holdings do not have any utilised agricultural area but are engaged in the rearing of livestock. Although the majority of agricultural holdings have less than 0.5 ha of utilised agricultural areas, these holdings have a total of 1,331 ha (13.0 per cent) of the total utilised agricultural area. On the other hand, wheras only 2,980 agricultural holdings (26.9 per cent) have 1 ha or more of utilised areas, these holdings have a total of 7,169 ha (69.9 per cent) of the total utilised agricultural area.
The survey also shows that the structure of farming in Malta and Gozo is similar. The majority of farming in agriculture in Malta is based on the growing of some type of crops.
Arable area totalled 8,196 ha (79.9 per cent of utilised agricultural areas), of which 4,574 ha were devoted to the cultivation of forage plants.
While kitchen gardens accounted for 9.4 per cent of the total UAA, the remaining 10.6 per cent of UAA were taken up by permanent crops.
When compared to the 2003 survey, there was a drop in the cultivation of potatoes and vegetables. The share of fallow land has increased from 7.5 per cent to 13.6 per cent of the total arable area in 2005. This increase was due to the share of potato cultivation declining from 13 per cent to 10 per cent and vegetable cultivation from 23 per cent to 20 per cent in 2005. The percentage of arable area cultivated with forage plants has remained practically unchanged.
When compared to the 2003 survey, changes in the livestock sector were also recorded with a total of 19,847 cattle registered in 2005.
While the total amount of cattle increased by 6.8 per cent from 18,578 cattle, the number of dairy cows declined by 4.7 per cent, from 7,632 to 7,274 dairy cows. When compared to the FSS 2003, the pig population registered a drop of 3.7 per cent, from 76,010 to 73,165 pigs.
The total number of poultry registered in the survey amounted to 1,052,013 heads. When compared to the structure survey in 2003 a decline of 23.9 per cent was recorded. Contrasting developments within the poultry sector contributed to this decline.
The number of broilers accounted for 61.7 per cent of total poultry in 2003, this percentage fell to 54.7 per cent in 2005. On the other hand, the percentage of laying hens increased from 36.6 per cent in 2003 to 44.6 per cent in 2005. Annual slaughtering figures of broilers have confirmed the decline in the number of broilers on poultry farms.
The farming sector employs a total of 1,546 persons engaged on a full time basis, out of which 92.2 per cent are males with the remaining 7.8 per cent being females. There were 16,423 persons engaged on a part time basis. Female participation in agriculture is more pronounced in part time activity where 20.6 per cent is carried out by females. Although, at face value, this figure may seem a large percentage, the females are normally the spouses of sole holders who contribute less than one week effort in agriculture to just one full time equivalent. When converting all agricultural employment into full time equivalents, or annual work units (AWU's), the total annual work unit amounted to 4,039 AWU's.