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FAO: Ag employs 27% of world’s workers, generates 4% of GDP

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January 12, 2021

Agriculture employed a quarter of the world’s workers in 2019. The share of the world’s workers employed in agriculture fell from 1.1 billion or 40 percent of 2.6 billion workers in 2000 to 884 million or 27 percent of 3.3 billion workers in 2019.

Agriculture’s share of world employment fell from 40% to 27% between 2000 and 2019

Despite the exit of 169 million Chinese from agriculture over the past two decades, and the exit of 25 million Indians, China and India each have about 200 million people employed in agriculture. There are 225 million people employed in African agriculture, half of the continent’s employment.

Asia had 68% of global ag employment in 2019, and Africa 25%

Women were 37 percent of those employed in agriculture globally, but over 50 percent of those employed in agriculture in many African countries.

Women were 37% of people employed in ag globally, but over 50% in some countries

The value added by agriculture, forestry, and fisheries was $3.4 trillion or four percent of the world’s $85 trillion GDP in 2018. By continent, value added in agriculture was $2.2 trillion in Asia, $480 billion in the Americas, $397 billion in Africa, $328 billion in Europe, and $45 billion in Oceania. The share of value added contributed by agriculture to GDP fell in Asia over the past two decades as nonfarm economies expanded, but rose in Africa.

Ag’s value added is the highest share of GDP in Africa and Asia

Value-added subtracts the value of purchased farm inputs from farm cash receipts, so the gap between farm cash receipts and value added is smaller in developing countries where farmers purchase fewer seeds, chemicals, and fertilizers. China accounted for $1.1 trillion in agricultural value added, India $400 billion, and the US $184 billion.

The Big 4 crops, sugar cane (21 percent of the Big 4 crop tonnage), corn or maize (13 percent), rice (nine percent), and wheat (eight percent) accounted for half of the 9.1 billion tons of primary crops in 2018. Fruits and vegetables were about 20 percent of global crop production in 2018.

Sugar cane, corn, wheat, and rice accounted for half of primary crop production in 2018

Many countries produce the Big 4 crops, but the top three countries account for half or more of the total production of sugarcane, corn, rice, and soybeans. Brazil was the top producer of sugar cane (40 percent of global tonnage), the US of corn and soybeans (35 percent), and China led in rice (25 percent).

The top 3 countries accounted for over half of the production of each of the Big 4 crops

World meat production was 342 million tons or about 90 pounds per person in 2018. About 90 percent of this meat was pork (35 percent), chicken (33 percent), and beef (20 percent). China is the leading producer of pork, while the US leads in chicken and beef production, followed closely by Brazil.

China is the leading producer of pork, and the US is the leading producer of beef and chicken

World milk production was 843 million tons in 2018, led by India with 22 percent of the total and the US with 12 percent. China produced 35 percent of the world’s 77 million tons of eggs in 2018.

World fish production totaled 180 million tons worth $400 billion in 2018, including 54 percent wild or caught fish and 46 percent farmed fish. China was the leading producer of both caught and farmed fish.

China accounts for over a third of fish production, including over half of farmed fish

Some $1.4 trillion worth of farm goods were traded over national borders in 2018, over 40 percent of the total value of farm production and up sharply from $380 billion in 2000. Fruits and vegetables represented 23 percent of trade in farm commodities, followed by cereals, 14 percent, and fish and meat, each 11 percent.

Fruits and vegetables accounted for a quarter of world food exports in 2018

The Americas, Oceania, and Europe are net food exporters, while Africa and Asia are net food importers. The US accounted for nine percent of the world’s farm exports, followed by the Netherlands and China, six percent each.

The Americas are net exporters of fruits and vegetables, while Asia and Europe are net importers

Some 690 million people were considered undernourished in 2019, with 55 percent in Asia. However, Africa had the highest rate of undernourishment at 19 percent in 2019, almost double the less than 10 percent undernourishment rate of other continents.

Some 690 million people were undernourished in 2019, including almost 20% of Africans

World agriculture produced 2,900 calories per person per day in 2019, but food supplies varied by continent. People in North America and Europe had 3,500 calories per day available, Asians 2,800, and Africans 2,500 calories per day.

Europeans and Americans have the most calories per person per day available

Some 13 percent of the world’s adults (18 and older) were obese in 2016, including over a quarter of adults in Europe and North America. Rates of obesity are rising everywhere.

A quarter of adults in Europe and North America were obese in 2016

The share of adults who are obese is highest in Pacific Islands and the Middle East. In some of 20 most obese countries, there is both child undernourishment and adult obesity. In Egypt, for example, a quarter of children are undernourished and a third of adults are obese.

Half or more of adults are obese in some Pacific Islands

SDG target 12.3 aims to reduce food losses between farms and consumers. The FAO estimated that 14 percent of the food produced in 2016 was lost, including a quarter of the root and tuber crops such as cassava and potatoes and over 20 percent of the fruits and vegetables that were harvested.

Over a fifth of fruits and vegetables are lost between farms and consumers

Employment in Agriculture (Thousand People)
Country 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
World 1,047,925 1,042,185 986,359 917,411 910,742 904,367 896,161 889,396 884,355
Africa 160,586 181,446 195,891 204,513 206,909 210,652 214,351 218,579 223,497
Americas 40,659 43,791 41,412 40,665 40,684 40,713 41,305 41,691 42,021
Asia 809,217 786,559 723,224 649,388 640,544 630,715 618,960 607,878 598,160
Europe 34,733 27,864 23,538 20,562 20,340 19,991 19,228 18,903 18,333
Oceania 2,730 2,525 2,294 2,283 2,266 2,297 2,319 2,345 2,344
Afghanistan 2,937 3,576 3,472 3,751 3,831 3,886 3,887 3,987 4,074
Albania 578 514 449 438 444 441 436 434 427
Algeria 1,385 1,560 1,182 1,092 1,079 1,096 1,078 1,075 1,071
Andorra
Angola 2,422 2,923 4,234 5,191 5,366 5,565 5,761 5,968 6,175
Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina 93 198 215 97 47 23 11 18 17
Armenia 469 422 410 387 385 363 336 327 321
Australia 433 355 360 327 314 316 318 327 323
Austria 226 201 213 203 191 186 170 163 159
Azerbaijan 1,277 1,442 1,603 1,669 1,680 1,712 1,737 1,757 1,734
Bahamas 6 5 5 4 5 4 4 4 4
Bahrain 5 6 8 8 8 8 9 9 10
Bangladesh 29,131 25,680 26,112 26,028 26,016 25,995 26,190 25,984 25,876
Barbados 6 5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Belarus 621 577 523 475 464 465 512 546 529
Belgium 79 87 61 56 54 58 55 48 47
Belize 21 19 23 25 26 28 27 28 28
Benin 1,292 1,457 1,598 1,671 1,711 1,747 1,772 1,792 1,823
Bhutan 157 179 186 179 197 199 201 203 205
Bolivia (Plurinational State of) 1,403 1,603 1,385 1,549 1,330 1,455 1,555 1,688 1,700
Bosnia and Herzegovina 244 201 205 172 173 180 178 169 164
Botswana 99 129 157 179 179 179 181 182 183
Brazil 11,655 13,489 11,114 9,640 9,492 9,186 8,594 8,567 8,634

The FAO was created in 1945. Its statistical yearbook includes sections on economics, production, food security, and the environment. Annex Table 8 includes employment in agriculture by continent and country.

References

FAO. 2020. Statistical Yearbook. World Food and Agriculture.


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