May 17, 2022

Just Released: World Food and Agriculture – Statistical Yearbook 2020

The World Food and Agriculture – Statistical Yearbook 2020 from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (full text) is now available to access online and/or download.

From the Publication Announcement:

Agriculture’s global contribution to global gross domestic product increased by 68 percent between 2000 and 2018 to $3.4 trillion. Asia accounts for 63 percent of that total, while Africa is home to the fastest growth, almost twice the global pace.

The number of people employed in agriculture has declined in this millennium, to 884 million or 27 percent of the global work force compared to 1 050 million or 40 percent in 2000. The bulk of that decline occurred in Asia, although the sharpest drop was observed in Europe, where only 5.3 percent of the employed population works in the sector, compared to 49 percent in Africa.

The Yearbook also notes that 37.1 percent of these workers are women, who account for more than half the national agricultural work force in 22 countries.

Global pesticide use has increased by one-third to 4.1 million tonnes each year, although has been steady since 2012. China is the world’s top user, deploying more than four times as much as Brazil and the United States of America.

Worldwide fertilizer use has expanded to 53 million tonnes – about 121 kilograms per hectare of cropland – with nitrogen the dominant chemical and potassium accounting for the fastest growth rate. The fastest expansions have been in Africa and the Americas, although the former starts from a very low starting level.

The production of primary crops was 9.2 billion tonnes in 2018, around 50 percent more than in 2000. Oil crops had the fastest growth, up 88 percent. Four crops account for half of global primary crop production: sugar cane, maize, wheat and rice.

The data also show that the top producer of many of the chief food commodity crops accounts for a sizeable share of global output: Brazil for sugar cane, China for rice and potatoes, the U.S. for maize and soybeans. A similar story describes processed outputs, with China the leading soybean oil producer, Indonesia and Malaysia far and away the main palm oil producers, and Ukraine and Russia the main sunflower oil producers.

Global food trade has grown even faster than output, with its total monetary value almost quadrupled to $1.4 trillion between 2000 and 2018.

Hunger is on the rise, with almost 690 million people undernourished in 2019, close to 60 million more than in 2014. At the same time, obesity is also increasing: It affected 13.1 percent of the adult population in 2016, compared with 8.7 percent in 2000.

Cropland increased by 75 million hectares between 2000 and 2017, equivalent to twice the size of Japan. Over the same period, forest land decreased by 89 million hectares, equivalent to size of Nigeria.

World agriculture emissions within the farm gate grew by 16 percent between 2000 and 2017. About 60 percent come from livestock-related activities.

The Yearbook offers granular data organized by country and subject, as well as a wealth of graphics and maps that make the data accessible.

Direct to Full Text: Online Version

Direct to Full Text (366 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.