According to relationshipsplus, the strong urbanization, caused since the century. XIX from the intense industrial development, has meant that for a long time the number of employees in agricultural activities was rather modest. Agriculture absorbs a percentage of the active population which is among the lowest among those of all countries in the world. Despite this, the sector, largely mechanized and technically very advanced, supplies over 50% of the country’s food needs. About a quarter of the territory is cultivated, but in general production efforts and investments are concentrated on those areas which, due to climatic and pedological characteristics, can guarantee the highest yields. The extent of land ownership is very varied: while in Scotland large estates of up to several thousand ha are common, in England and Wales the farms generally have an average size, about 20 ha; the mixed farm prevails everywhere, associating crops with livestock breeding. The arable land is largely occupied by cereals, which are widespread above all in the drier eastern areas. Barley, destined to feed livestock and to produce beer, occupies one fifth of the arable; wheat is grown almost exclusively in England; productivity is very high, but production, although in a very strong recovery since the 1980s, must be partially integrated by the use of imports. Oats are on the decline, but they are well represented in Northern Ireland, while the cultivation of potatoes is of great importance. Sugar beet prevails among industrial crops, widespread above all in eastern England and also the object of renewed economic interest on the part of producers and industry; its by-products are also partly used in breeding. Also important are hops, for making beer, and, in Northern Ireland, flax.
But in the context of British agriculture the most novelty is provided by the expansion of fruit and vegetable products (tomatoes, onions, cabbage, apples, pears, plums, etc.), partly grown in greenhouses, which however are not enough to cover the ever-increasing internal demands and are therefore widely imported. Forest exploitation is not of great importance, given that 11.8% of the national surface is occupied by woods and forests (in 2002 7,375,000 m3 of wood were obtained, largely supplied by Scotland). On the other hand, decidedly brilliant results have been achieved in the livestock sector, which can count on very large areas of grass and permanent pasture and is favored by a climate that brings sufficient moisture to the land. The breeding allows to satisfy almost entirely the internal requests for meat, cheese and eggs, as well as 100% of those for milk, thanks above all to a careful selection of the cattle, which also benefits from a highly rational diet. Cattle breeding prevails, which are reserved for many of the richest pastures in southern England and central and southwestern Scotland, and sheep breeding, mainly intended for the production of wool and which is satisfied with the leanest soils of the highlands. particularly of northern Scotland. The number of poultry and pigs is also high. The activities related to breeding are of considerable importance: the main ones are the dairy industry, the production of meat and that of washed wool. Fishing is also a major component of the British economy, although it makes a smaller contribution than one might expect from an island country. The sector is however well equipped and has a good fishing fleet; the employees are partly dedicated to coastal fishing, but a good number also go to the waters of Greenland and the Barents Sea; among the main fishing ports, equipped with adequate canning industries, are those of Aberdeen, Kingston-upon-Hull and Grimsby on the North Sea, Fleetwood on the Irish Sea; the catch – herring, mackerel, cod, etc. – is largely set up in Billingsgate (a borough of London), which is Britain’s largest fish market.