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The grass is greener: European land prices, compared

Over the last 10 years, the EU’s statistics agency has worked on harmonizing country data and patching up information gaps to make land prices and rents comparable across the bloc. We take a look at the first set of results.

 

For years, the EU lacked a useful methodology and database to compare land statistics across member states. Many of them did not deliver data; those that did often produced incomplete sets. The definitions and sources also varied widely.

The bloc put up with it until two events highlighted these shortcomings: accelerated enlargement, which aggravated discrepancies; and the switch to a land-based rather than production-based subsidy regime, which required more reliable data.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistical arm, thus endeavored to tackle the continent’s ‘apple-and-pear’ problem by establishing a common methodology in the second half of the last decade, and a working group was established in December 2010. The graph below sheds light on the first set of results, covering the “experimental” period of 2011-14.

Some notable gaps remain (Germany and Italy are absent). Still, the graphs are an eloquent demonstration of discrepancies across the region, and how these have evolved over time. It illustrates, in particular, the extent to which eastern European countries have yet to catch up with western agricultural powers – though even among the latter differences are stark.

PS Look out for the second chart of this series, on land rents across the EU, in the coming days