France, a country best recognised for its rich culinary tradition and fertile lands, boasts a robust, well-established agricultural sector that has contributed much to shaping the country’s very history and culture. This sector, deeply ingrained in the nation's heritage, has been the backbone of rural communities for centuries. Today, France’s agricultural landscape is a mixture of tradition and innovation in the face of current challenges caused by climate change, economic instability and geopolitical tension.
In 2010, the agriculture sector in France provided employment to a staggering 716,000 individuals – a number that’s been steadily declining over the last 13 years. Arable land, currently comprising 52.5% of mainland France's territory, enjoys the reputation for high-quality produce and is linked to numerous French delicacies. However, urbanization has led to a steady decline in the available farmland – a process that first began in 1950.
Nevertheless, France still enjoys a diverse farming scene. France is home to nearly 500,000 farms, with 93% falling within the middle-range and large-scale categories. These farms cover a wide spectrum of agricultural practices, from vineyards to dairy production. In fact, it’s the production of speciality dairy products that originally put France on the culinary map and established it as a force in the agriculture industry. Renowned for its cheeses, France continues to lead the world in crafting a vast array of dairy delights that grace tables worldwide.
Agricultural production in France places emphasis on key food crops, including sugar beet, wheat, maize, barley and potatoes. These staples are the building blocks of French cuisine. Another notable aspect of the nation’s agricultural sector is its strong commitment to preserving crop diversity. There are 263,722 crop varieties in collections of crop diversity within the nation. This contributes to global efforts aimed at safeguarding plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.