Denmark is the only country in the Baltic region with a net export of agricultural products, producing 3 times the amount of food it needs for itself. A good percentage of arable land and moderate climate has been conducive to agriculture, but the sector's extremely advanced technology and infrastructure are what have made it so productive in recent years. Although agriculture's role in the Danish economy has steadily decreased as industrialization and economic development has progressed, it is still essential as a source of foreign currency, a direct and indirect source of jobs, and as a supply of everyday foodstuffs.
The increasing mechanization of agriculture, combined with changes in farm management and organization, plus the draw of industrial employment in the cities, has meant fewer people are required to farm ever-increasing quantities of land. Farm sizes have increased, and the number of individual farms has dropped dramatically since the 1950s. From the 1970s into the 1990s, 2,600 individual holdings disappeared every year, absorbed into larger farms. In the first half of the 20th century Denmark had around 200,000 individual farms, averaging 16 hectares in size; by 1997, there were about 60,900 farms averaging 43.6 hectares. Family-run farms are still dominant in Denmark, where even in 1997, some 91 percent of farms were family-owned and run, 7 percent company-owned, and the rest owned by the state, local authorities, and foundations. Along with increasing farm size, the typical farmer has to an increasing extent concentrated on one sole branch of farming, and specialization in animal production has led to fewer types, but larger numbers, of livestock.
In 1996, primary forestry occupied approximately 3,000 employees, while forestry formed the basis for most of the work for around 34,000 employees in the wood manufacturing industry. Denmark is Europe's primary supplier of Christmas trees. Profits from forestry have historically been invested both in modernization of the industry and in investment in other industries. The state is the largest owner of forests, with one-third of forested land under its control. The rest is owned by a multitude of private companies, individuals, and institutions.
In the early 1990s, Denmark was among the top 10 to 15 fishing nations in the world, catching 1.6 million tons in 1993. Industrial fishing (catching fish for industrial use, i.e. producing fish meal and fish oil) has been the most important branch of fishing with a total catch in 1993 of 1.2 million tons. In 1993, the export value of the fishing industry was around DKr10 billion, corresponding to some 4 to 5 percent of Denmark's total exports.
Environmental legislation has been on the increase in the past decade, some of which has directly affected productivity. For example, the greater emphasis on forests and parks has meant that some land had to be turned away from farming use. New restrictions on waste disposal and contamination have also forced some farmers to limit or end production.