- Information on agriculture
- Information on rural areas
- Information on forests
- Information on the fishing industry and water
- Information on bioeconomy
Finland is considered the most northerly agricultural country in the world. In spite of its location, Finland has managed to maintain an agricultural production where production and domestic consumption are kept nearly in step. Thanks to the country’s geographical location, production methods and sustainable approaches, food produced in Finland is by many standards among the cleanest in the world. In 2018, approximately 13% of arable land was used for organic production.
Finland’s agriculture relies heavily on grassland and cereal varieties suited to the northern climate. The total area used for agriculture in Finland comes to about 2.3 million hectares. In recent years, cereal crops have accounted for just over 1 million hectares and grassland for some 0.7 million hectares.
Grassland is very well suited to our short northern growing season. The large proportion of grassland means that milk production is the most economically significant agricultural sector in Finland. Finland produces approximately 2.3 billion litres of milk each year. Finnish beef production is primarily based on dairy animals.
Finland consumes more meat than it produces. Over the past ten years, beef production has stabilised at around 85 million kg per year, whereas the production of pigmeat has decreased to about 170 million kg per year. Reflecting the general trend, the annual production of poultry meat has increased to 135 million kg. Sheep farming in Finland produces about 1.5 million kg of meat annually. Finland’s reindeer husbandry areas in the north of the country produce slightly more meat, about 2 million kg annually.
Finland’s most important cereal crops are barley and oats, followed by wheat and rye. The country’s fields also grow oilseed crops, for instance, and special crops such as caraway, and sugar beet and potato.
In 2018, there were an estimated 47 000 farms in Finland, and nearly all of them were family run. Farmers and their family members perform 80% of all agricultural work in Finland.
Both farmers and public administration work very hard to protect the environment and promote the welfare of farm animals. The Finnish approach to farm animal healthcare is proactive; for instance, it is not based on automatic administration of antibiotics. Finnish food is safe and clean, and it is produced in a responsible manner.
The welfare of farm animals has long been promoted through systematic animal healthcare and controlled use of antibiotics. In addition, tail docking of pigs or beak trimming of poultry have never really become established practices in Finland. In order to make this possible, Finland is used to paying attention to the living conditions of animals, which has significantly contributed to improving farm animal welfare. Finnish food is therefore also safe and clean, and produced in a responsible manner.
Rural areas are an integral part of Finland’s prosperity and society. The majority of our natural resources are located in areas categorised as rural, and by using them in sustainable ways we can advance the circular economy. People living and working in rural areas rely on smoothly-running everyday life, facilitated by comprehensive telecommunication infrastructure and functioning transport links.
Rural areas account for 95% of Finland’s land area. Finland’s rural areas have around 1.6 million permanent residents and around 2.1 million recreational residents.
Finland uses several classifications for categorising areas as rural. According to the Rural-Urban Classification for Local Authorities, local authorities are categorised as rural when less than 60% of their population live in built-up areas and the population of the largest built-up area is below 15 000. Moreover, local authorities are categorised as rural when at least 60% but below 90% of their population live in built-up areas and the population of the largest built-up area is below 4 000.
About 40% of all places of business in Finland are located in rural areas, totalling 150 000 enterprises. About 30% of small- and medium-sized enterprises are located in rural areas. Finland’s rural areas offer versatile opportunities for entrepreneurs from farmers to creative digital businesses. A national survey report on rural areas is published every three years.
Depending on the season, multi-local living and location-independent working can multiple the population in rural areas. Tourism and outdoor recreation increase the number of people in rural areas and bring customers to local services. So far, however, the multi-locality trend does not show up in the population statistics because they are calculated based on the last day of the year.
With rural development and rural policy Finland aims to create conditions for good living and versatile business opportunities in all rural areas.
Forests cover 75% of Finland’s land area, which is the highest percentage in Europe. Finland is situated in the boreal coniferous forest zone. The principal tree species are Scots pine, Norway spruce and birch, and they are all exploited economically. The Finnish forest is also a major carbon sink. Finnish forests are managed and utilised actively, following the principles of sustainable forestry.
There are quite a few private forest owners in Finland: 600 000 private forest owners own 60% of the Finnish forest. The State of Finland and large enterprises are also major forest owners.
12% of Finnish forests are protected, and most of the protected forests are located in northern Finland. The area covered by protected forests comes to about 2.7 million hectares, whereas forests in commercial use account for 20.1 million hectares. There are both privately owned and state-owned protected forests.
The forest means many things to many people in Finland. Forestry remains one of Finland’s most important industrial sectors, employing about 65 000 people. In 2017, forestry accounted for 4.1% of the country’s GDP, and the exports of forestry products totalled EUR 11.7 billion. The most important products were pulp, cardboard, paper and sawnwood.
Finnish forests are extensively used for recreation. The traditional Finnish concept of everyman’s right allows everyone free right of access to the country’s forests. Finns enjoy spending time in forest areas; for instance, they collect wild berries and mushrooms for private consumption or for sale. In 2017, the turnover for the natural products sector amounted to approximately EUR 530 million. Hunting wild game is also a popular hobby in Finland.
Finland is a dynamic and proactive player in international forest policy. It has long collaborated in the forest sector with countries and areas such as China and Africa, for example. Finland is also host to the European Forest Institute.
Finland has a long coastline and more land area covered by lakes than any other EU country. Fishing is an important source of income for about 2 000 professional fishers. Fish farming in the sea and inland waters produces valuable fish species for primarily domestic consumption. The value of the fisheries value chain in Finland is about EUR 1 billion. Nearly 1.5 million Finns engage in fishing at least once a year, and fishing tourism has become increasingly popular. There is also a rising trend in restoring flowing bodies of water and building fishways, which help to revive and restore fish populations in Finland’s numerous rivers.
The restoration and management of water bodies is a special priority for Finland. Of all Finnish lakes, 85% are of excellent or good quality. Finland is committed to long-term work towards improving the state of the Baltic Sea. Water quality in the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea has long been improving, but coastal waters are still eutrophic in some areas.
Finland is on its way to becoming a carbon-neutral society. There are several global drivers behind this change: climate change, rapid technological development, competition for limited natural resources, the transformation of the global economy, changes in values and attitudes, demographic changes, and urbanisation. We need sustainable solutions that can help secure access to clean food and water and ensure a sustainable natural resource economy as well as the vitality and success of rural areas. Bioeconomy refers to an economy based on the use of renewable natural resources for the production of food, energy, products and services. By pursuing a bioeconomy, we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, guarantee the provision of ecosystem services and create jobs and economic growth in line with the UN’s sustainable development goals.
Finland’s bioeconomy strategy (‘Sustainable Growth from Bioeconomy’) was published in May 2014 as part of the Government resolution on Finland’s leading fields of growth (Kasvun kärjet). Over the past five years, Finland has grown into a leading country in sustainable bioeconomy. The value of the bioeconomy has risen, new biorefinery investments have been made, education and research have been supported, and the availability and sustainable use of biomass have been promoted by, for example, improving information systems.
The EU bioeconomy strategy was published in 2012 in the form of a Commission communication. The Commission urged EU member states to draft their own national strategies, and Finland quickly did so. An update to the EU bioeconomy strategy was published in 2018. The Commission has requested that Finland organise a European-wide bioeconomy conference as part of the programme for Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. The conference, European Bioeconomy Scene 2019, will be held in Helsinki on 9 July 2019.
As a whole, the administrative branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for many areas related to the bioeconomy: food security and safety, a competitive Finnish food system, security of supply, clean water, animal and plant disease control, securing the sustainability and competitiveness of bioeconomy-based livelihoods, and promoting the vitality of rural areas. Ethical perspectives and fairness are taken into account in all activities by acquiring new, conceptual research knowledge on the values and lines of thinking that can contribute to achieving the systemic shift towards a biobased economy.