Policy makers, researchers, analysts and anyone interested in the past, present and future paths of food and agriculture now have an updated all-in-one tool to peruse the major factors at play in the agrifood systems of the world.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published its annual Statistical Yearbook, comprising hundreds of pages of organized data covering themes from agricultural employment, agrifood trade, fertilizer and pesticide use around the world as well as environmental and climate factors. This is a lot of key policy-relevant information at a glance, easily and quickly accessible.
The Statistical Yearbook World Food and Agriculture 2022 is available in a digital version, in a downloadable version, and as a pocketbook printed edition.
"FAO assigns tremendous importance to data and statistics as a global public good at the core of our efforts to advance sustainable development," said José Rosero Moncayo, Director of FAO's Statistics Division, "FAO is committed to ensuring free access to current, reliable, timely and trusted data, necessary to chart a course towards more sustainable and equitable agrifood systems and a world free of hunger."
The 2022 edition is built around four thematic chapters: one on economic dimension; one on production, trade and price of commodities; one on food security and nutrition; and one on the sustainability and environmental aspects of agriculture. Along with assessments made at global and regional levels, it contains detailed data taken from the more than 20 000 indicators covering more than 245 countries and territories that the freely accessible FAOSTAT data platform contains.
Dietary energy supply, a key indicator for food security, went up in all regions since 2000, and did so the most in Asia. The world average is now 2 960 calories per person per day, up 9 percent, with the level peaking at 3 540 calories per day per person in Europe and North America.
Today, some 866 million people work in agriculture, more than a quarter of the global work force, and produced $3.6 trillion in value-added. Compared to 2000, those figures represent a 78 percent increase in economic value, produced by 16 percent fewer people, with Africa posting double that pace of growth.
Since 2000, the production of primary crops, such as sugarcane, maize, wheat and rice, grew by 52 percent from 2000 to 2020 to reach 9.3 billion tonnes. Vegetable oil production increased by 125 percent over that period, with palm oil output growing by 236 percent. Meat output, led by chicken, grew by 45 percent, while the growth rate for fruits and vegetables was 20 percent or below.
Sugarcane is the world's largest crop by volume, with 1. 9 million tonnes annually. Maize is next at 1.2 billion tonnes.
Global food exports have risen to $1.42 trillion, up by a factor of 3.7 since 2000.
Worldwide, the largest food-exporting countries in gross terms are the United States of America, the Netherlands and China. The largest exporters in net terms were Brazil, by far, followed by Argentina and Spain. The largest net importing countries were China, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Some 4.74 billion hectares of the planet's surface is agricultural land, including meadows and pastures as well as crops. That figure is down 3 percent from 2000, but down six times as much in per capita terms, with Africa again in the lead.
Worldwide pesticide use peaked in 2012 and began declining in 2017. The countries with the highest pesticide application per hectare are Saint Lucia, Maldives and Oman.
Climate and environmental factors
The Statistical Yearbook also taps on FAOSTAT's rich and growing information sets about climate and environmental factors that impact on and result from agrifood systems.
Average temperature in 2021 were 1.44 °C hotter than the average from 1951 to 1980. Europe has had the highest temperature change, followed by Asia, with Oceania reporting by far the least change.
Greenhouse gas emissions on agricultural land declined by 4 percent between 2000 and 2020, with 70 percent of them generated withing the farm gate.
Cattle and sheep meat account by most carbon dioxide emissions, with cattle averaging 50 times more than chicken. The emissions intensity of cereals is much lower, although rice emits more than five times than wheat and coarse grains.
The rate of greenhouse gas emissions changes significantly across regions, reflecting large differences in efficiencies of production. For instance, the emissions intensity of cattle meat in Africa is almost four times as great as in Europe.
Article 1 of FAO's constitution states that the Organization shall "collect, analyze, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture, including forestry, fisheries and aquaculture". Information such as that reviewed above, and found far more abundantly in the Statistical Yearbook, can help identify how and where to craft and implement initiatives with higher impact in terms of achieving the Four Better: Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment, and a Better Life that lie at the heart of FAO's Strategic Framework 2022-2031.