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684. World Food and Agriculture Statistics

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Today, due to the global development of the food system, agriculture, which accounts for only 4% of the world's GDP, feeds humanity, including urban populations, which account for more than half of the world's population. On the one hand, today's food system increases the health risks to humanity from overeating and fails to eradicate malnutrition completely. The effects of unhealthy diets are accumulating on a global scale, contributing to environmental pollution from fertilizer and pesticide use, biodiversity loss, land-use change, and greenhouse gas emissions, threatening the stability of the global system. In the 2020s, it is recognized that the food system is far from providing food that is environmentally sustainable and conducive to health in a way that is fair to all, and the global trend is to seek solutions through innovation.

However, agriculture is conducted in a local context, defined by the climate and sunshine hours of each region, and the ease of adopting technologies that are appropriate to the soil and topography makes the state of agriculture extremely diverse. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all technology or solution for diverse agricultural issues, and technological development must be tailored to local agro-climatic, soil science, and socioeconomic conditions. The development of strategies to transform the food system while maintaining global food security requires constant updating of information on the diverse status of the world's agriculture.

Today, we would like to highlight some figures on global food and agriculture from the UN News article on the Statistical Pocketbook World Food and Agriculture 2022 recently released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 

Calorie intake : The average daily value of calories consumed worldwide was 2,960 kilocalories; caloric consumption has increased in all regions of the world since 2000, with particularly large increases reported in Asian countries in 2021. Europe and North America had the highest average calorie consumption at 3,540 calories per day, while African countries had the lowest average at 2,600 calories per day.

Temperature rise and GHG emissions : Compared to the 1951-1980 period, the global average temperature in 2021 was 1.4°C higher, with Europe recording the highest increase, followed by Asia. Greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural land were reduced by 4% between 2000 and 2020. Cattle emit 50 times more carbon dioxide than chickens, and rice emits 5 times more greenhouse gases than wheat and coarse grains.

Production : Since 2000, production of crops such as sugarcane, maize, wheat and rice has increased by 52%. Vegetable oil production has increased by 125% over the same period, especially palm oil, which has increased by 236%. Meat production increased 45%, driven by growth in poultry production, while fruits and vegetables grew by less than 20%.

Trade : World food exports, at $1.42 trillion in value terms, have increased 3.7-fold since the beginning of the 21st century. The largest food exporters in value terms are the United States, the Netherlands, and China, while the largest net exporter is Brazil, followed by Argentina and Spain. In contrast, the world's net importers are China, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Land Use : 4.74 billion hectares of the Earth's surface are for agricultural use, including crops and grazing land, but overall agricultural land use has declined 3% since 2000 and is declining faster per capita.

Pesticide Use : Globally, pesticide use peaked in 2012 and has been declining since 2017. The countries with the largest pesticide use per hectare are reported to be St. Lucia, Maldives, and Oman.

The original report uses world maps and other information on various agricultural statistics to show the diversity of agriculture and food in the world, which cannot be captured by averages. Please take a look at it.

For more information on the origins of the world food system, please also refer to the presentation material at the public symposium Toward a Sustainable Food System organized by  by the Foundation of Agricultural Sciences of Japan in March this year.


FAO. 2022. World Food and Agriculture − Statistical Pocketbook 2022. Rome.


Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Information Program)