Just days after celebrating its 75th anniversary and to coincide with World Statistics Day, the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) has published its revamped statistical yearbook, which is 366 pages this year and offers digital interactivity and downloadable data sets for the first time.
The "World Food & Agriculture -- Statistical Yearbook 2020" offers a synthesis of the major factors at play in the current global food and agriculture landscape, including information ranging from farming trends, inputs use, labor utilization, food security and nutrition to greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of agriculture on the environment.
FAO is a major provider of global data on agriculture and food security, in particular featuring the FAOSTAT portal tracking around 20,000 indicators covering 245 countries and territories, the Sustainable Development Goals Data Portal and the new Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Data platform, which harnesses innovation and a broad set of partners to identify actionable development projects, FAO said.
"Now, more than ever, timely, accurate and high-quality statistics are essential to monitor trends and inform policy decisions, whether concerning the longer-term challenge of delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the immediate threat represented by the COVID-19 pandemic," José Rosero Moncayo, director of the FAO Statistics Division, said. "FAO is committed to ensuring free access to current, reliable and trusted data, as they provide the indispensable evidence base that countries require to formulate policy decisions and monitor progress towards agreed objectives."
The yearbook is divided into four thematic chapters focusing on:
1. The economic dimensions of agriculture, forestry and fishing;
2. Production, trade and price trends;
3. Food security and nutrition, and
4. Environmental sustainability.
The yearbook is accompanied by FAO's Statistical Pocketbook, which provides a quick and easy reference on the main facts about and trends in food and agriculture.
According to FAO, agriculture's contribution to global gross domestic product increased 68% between 2000 and 2018 to $3.4 trillion. Asia accounts for 63% of that total, while Africa has the fastest growth, at almost twice the global pace.
The number of people employed in agriculture has declined in this millennium to 884 million, or 27% of the global workforce, compared to 1.050 billion, or 40%, in 2000, FAO said. The bulk of that decline occurred in Asia, although the sharpest drop was observed in Europe, where only 5.3% of the employed population works in the sector, compared to 49% in Africa.
FAO said the yearbook also notes that 37.1% of these workers are women, who account for more than half of the national agricultural workforce in 22 countries.
Global pesticide use has increased by one-third to 4.1 million metric tons each year, although pesticide use has been steady since 2012. China is the global leader, using more than four times as much as Brazil and the U.S.
Worldwide fertilizer use has expanded to 53 mmt — about 121 kg per hectare of cropland — with nitrogen being the dominant chemical and potassium accounting for the fastest growth rate, FAO reported. The fastest expansions have been in Africa and the Americas, although Africa started from a very low level.
The production of primary crops was 9.2 billion mt in 2018, around 50% more than in 2000. Oil crops had the fastest growth, up 88%, FAO said, pointing out that four crops account for half of global primary crop production: sugarcane, 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 sugarcane, China for rice and potatoes and the U.S. for maize and soybeans. A similar story describes processed outputs, with China being the leading soybean oil producer, Indonesia and Malaysia 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, FAO said.
Hunger is on the rise, with almost 690 million people undernourished in 2019, close to 60 million more than in 2014, FAO reported. At the same time, obesity is also increasing, affecting 13.1% of the adult population in 2016, compared with 8.7% in 2000.
Cropland increased by 75 million hectares between 2000 and 2017, while forest land decreased by 89 million hectares over the same time period, FAO said.
The yearbook offers granular data organized by country and subject as well as a wealth of graphics and maps that make the data accessible, FAO said.