World agriculture

Follow the world’s leading agricultural statistics!

Agribusiness is in full swing. After all, this is the economic sector that feeds the world. It is therefore essential that farmers are aware of what happens in agriculture globally.

This market knowledge is fundamental to remain competitive in the market and guide your investments. So read our article and stay up to date with the world’s top agriculture statistics!

Track the most produced crops in the world market

The four main kinds of cereal produced in the world represent about 91% of the entire harvest. The ranking of the 2017/18 crop was as follows:

  • corn: 36.3%;
  • wheat: 26.3%;
  • rice: 16.9%;
  • soybeans: 12.2%.

However, when we expand production for food in general, including livestock products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) table, released by Foodnews, puts sugarcane first in terms of total weight:

  • sugarcane: 24%;
  • corn: 12.87%;
  • rice: 9.33%;
  • wheat: 8.99%;
  • cow’s milk: 8.04%;
  • potato: 4.73%.

Meet the leading countries in agricultural production

The world’s leading countries in agricultural production can be defined based on food volume or commercial value —these two aspects need to be evaluated.

United States

Americans are the world’s largest agricultural exporters. In 2018 alone, exported production totalled $ 139.5 billion. Their most common crops are corn and soybeans, and these are also the most exported items. The top five U.S. products are:

  1. soybeans;
  2. corn;
  3. dried fruits;
  4. beef;
  5. cotton.

The main export markets are:

  1. Canada;
  2. Mexico;
  3. European Union;
  4. Japan;
  5. China
  6. South Korea.


Brazil is the third-largest food exporter in the world. It has record harvests and is in sight of becoming the largest producer in the coming years. According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s forecast, livestock and production is expected to increase from 232.6 million tons from the 2017/18 crop to 302 million by 2027/28, representing an increase of 69 million tons (growth of 2.5% per year).

Currently, the Brazilian area for grain production spans 63 million hectares in the 2018/19 crop and is expected to expand to 71 million by the 2027/28 harvest. This growth is based on a 70% increase in grain production in the country over the last ten years.


China stands out on the global agricultural scene as one of the largest producers and as one of the major consumers —it is now the largest importer of food. Undoubtedly its sizeable territorial extension and numerous population justify this.

In 2017, China’s agricultural production exceeded 5.8 trillion yuan (about $865 billion). According to FAO data, China is in 4th place in export value with 4.2% market share. The other positions are for the European Union, the United States, and Brazil, with 41.1%, 11%, and 5.7%.

Check out what FAO has to say about global agriculture

Hunger and malnutrition

According to the latest FAO Statistical Yearbook, seven countries account for two-thirds of the number of people starving on the planet. Despite this, in most developing countries, agriculture remains one of the most important economic activities, comprising up to 30% of gross domestic product (GDP).

But according to the 2018 Statistical Pocketbook, also by FAO, when comparing the area used by agriculture, in poorer countries, the area cultivated per person is less than half that in richer countries. In this scenario, if women had greater access to agricultural insums, tools and seeds, they could end the hunger of more than 100 million people.

821 million people in the world are still hungry (1 in 9 people). There is still not enough food for most of the world’s population to maintain a healthy life, so 10% of the world’s population is exposed to severe food insecurity.

In 2007, 13.1% of the world’s people were in a state of malnutrition. According to the latest FAO data, in 2017, this percentage decreased to 10.9%, most of which reside in Africa.

Food availability

Another aspect addressed in Pocketbook 2018 is food availability for the population, which impacts food security. Factors such as political conflicts, changes and climate disasters weaken this supply and raise the world’s hunger rates.

However, this availability is not the only challenge. The degree of access to food is also determined by household income, commodity prices and physical infrastructure to reach products.

Most of the food consumed in the world is produced in nearby regions. Even where the local market does not meet demand, trade has been able to meet this shortage.

Pocketbook 2018 highlighted the exponential increase in international food trade. The flow of exports has increased approximately 5 times in the last 50 years. This expansion, however, was unequal and poorly distributed. High-income countries, in general, have grown more than developing regions.

Largest importers and exporters

In the ranking of the 12 countries that imported the most in 2016, the order was:

  1. China;
  2. United States of America;
  3. Germany;
  4. Netherlands;
  5. Japan;
  6. France;
  7. Italy;
  8. Belgium;
  9. Canada;
  10. Spain;
  11. India;
  12. Mexico.

Concerning the countries that exported the most:

  1. The United States;
  2. Netherlands;
  3. Brazil;
  4. Germany;
  5. France;
  6. Spain;
  7. Canada;
  8. China;
  9. Belgium;
  10. Italy;
  11. Australia;
  12. Indonesia.

Water resources

The use of water in agriculture is also a significant concern. Overconsumption compromises natural resources, and, on the other hand, times of drought are a considerable challenge. According to 2018 FAO data in Pocketbook, water demand has increased substantially in the last century. It went from less than 580 km³ in 1900 to more than 3,900 km³ today.

Agriculture is the most resource-intensive economic activity —requiring about 70% of all freshwater withdrawn in the world, mainly for irrigation activities. This operation, however, is fundamental to the success of agribusiness. To give you an idea, although irrigated agriculture accounts for only 20% of all cultivated land, it provides 40% of all world food production.

Being aware of the trends and statistics of global agriculture is essential to monitor agribusiness development and guide the decision-making concerning the market.

So, for you to stay updated, check out our post on technological progress and follow the evolution of agricultural implements!


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