The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has published its annual Statistical Yearbook, which provides a comprehensive overview of the global food and agricultural landscape and a summary of data on food, nutrition and agriculture.
The 2021 edition, which is also available online, contains data on four thematic areas: the economic aspects of agriculture, forestry and fishing; production, trade and price trends; food security and nutrition; and environmental sustainability.
Each chapter draws on the latest available data to describe, through text and charts, trends related to food, nutrition and agricultural, since the early 2000s. It is an indispensable reference for policy makers, researchers and analysts, as well as laypersons interested in the past, present and future paths of food and agriculture.
José Rosero Moncayo, Director of FAO’s Statistics Division in the publication’s foreword, said: “Timely, accurate and high-quality data and statistics are the cornerstone of solid policy design. This has become all the more critical as governments around the world commit to major sectoral and national development plans, as well as regional and global development agendas. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic, while hampering national capacities to collect data, has emphasized the pressing need for data and statistics to inform timely responses and monitor trends.”
The Statistical Yearbook was revamped in 2020 on the occasion of FAO’s 75th anniversary, underscoring the importance that FAO assigns to data and statistics as a global public good at the core of our efforts to advance sustainable development.
For the second year running, the yearbook is available in a digital format with interactive charts and downloadable data sets. The Yearbook is accompanied by FAO’s Statistical Pocketbook, which provides a quick and easy reference on the main facts and trends of food and agriculture.
So, what is the current situation?
Agriculture is an important sector for the global economy. In fact, the global value added generated by agriculture, forestry and fishing grew by 73 percent in real terms between 2000 and 2019, reaching $3.5 trillion in 2019. Not only that, but agriculture provided employment for 874 million people in 2020, totalling 27 percent of the global workforce.
When it comes to production, total production of primary crops increased by 53 percent between 2000 and 2019, hitting a record high of 9.4 billion tonnes in 2019. Half of global primary crop production is made up of just four crops: sugar cane, maize, wheat and rice.
Production of vegetable oils has risen sharply due to an increase in demand for palm oil, with production more than doubling between 2000 and 2018. Meat production also saw a hefty increase, growing by 44 percent between 2000 and 2019 to reach 337 million tonnes.
Despite the growing amount of food produced, the global level of the prevalence of undernourishment has increased sharply between 2019 and 2020, under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 10 percent of the world population suffered from hunger in 2020, compared to 8.4 percent in 2019.
On the topic of environmental sustainability, forest area declined by 94 million hectares – about the size of the United Republic of Tanzania – between 2000 and 2019. Nearly all countries in the Near East and North Africa have water stress levels close to or above 100 percent.
Greenhouse gas emissions on agricultural land declined by 2 percent between 2000 and 2019, but farm-gate greenhouse gas emissions actually went up 11 percent. Around 55 percent of them are related to livestock.
FAO: the home of food and agriculture statistics
Statistical work has been at the core of FAO’s activities and mandate since the Organization was founded in 1945, and the Statistical Yearbook is just one of a series of tools and statistical publications that FAO provides to users.
The freely accessible FAOSTAT data platform contains the largest statistical database on food and agriculture in the world, with approximately 20 000 indicators covering more than 245 countries and territories, and around 2 000 000 users each year.
Another important tool made available by FAO is the RuLIS platform, allowing users to find harmonized indicators and data across countries and over time on rural incomes, livelihoods and rural development.
FAO is committed to ensuring free access to current, reliable, timely and trusted data, necessary to chart a course towards a more sustainable agriculture and a world free of hunger.