Agriculture facts

Agriculture facts throw up no end of surprises.  

A global human population of 7 billion with each person needing to consume a minimum of 2,500 calories a day just to stay alive means that the facts are sobering and the numbers large.


976,681,000 tonnes | world food supply in 2009 up by 165,000,000 tonnes since 1992


147 kg | world food supply per capita per year down 4.1 kg [nearly 3%] since 1992

Many ecologists would agree with the claim of Brussard et al [2010] that modern agriculture is built from “the natural capital of wild biodiversity and the outcome of interaction between human and natural selection” 

Although this conveniently leaves out the vital input of human capital [energy and intellect] and the financial capital [loans, investments and equity] that modern farmer must have to produce crops and livestock, the foundation of agriculture is in natural capital

Human activity now appropriates close to half the global net primary production that comes from this natural capital with no sign of this proportion declining.

Here are some more agriculture facts


48,853,070 km2 | 38% of the global land area that is under agricultural production [arable land, area of permanent crops and area of permanent pastures] and does not include areas where livestock graze on native vegetation [rangelands]


1,011,000,000 tonnes | global livestock production [meat, eggs and milk] in 2007 more than double the production in 1967

At any one time the global number of livestock in fields, rangelands and feedlots is huge and very difficult to estimate — that is before we start counting pets.


144 million | number of cats and dogs in the US who collectively cost their owners $56 billion per year in upkeep


876,000 calories per year | the average energy consumed by one person


proportion of the worldwide freshwater appropriated by humans is used to irrigate crops. 


170 million tonnes | annual global production of fertilizer nutrients


3 billion | the number of people who make their living from subsistence agriculture which is a little under half the global population


870 million | number of people who do not have food security 


This random selection of agriculture facts shows that we are wholly dependent on agriculture. And just to keep up with demand agricultural production has to increase with estimates suggesting a doubling of current 2014 production by 2050.

That is a 100% production increase by the time todays kindergarden kids are taking their kids to their school formal. Blink and it will be here.

It is a circular conundrum — more people need more food and more food creates more people.

What we know is that we cannot avoid this challenge. Global security will depend on the ability to consistently grow food and manage water supplies so that people and nations feel surety.

It can be done, this scary sounding food production increase. It has been done before after all. And so long as we are aware that wise use of natural capital is the foundation for the bulk of the increase we can use technology to make up the difference.

We could start with solutions to current soil degradation and loss of soil carbon by increasing ground cover and managing water retention in the landscape.

Mulling over the agriculture facts can help understand the magnitude of the task and help focus on the solutions.

Find out more

Some more agriculture details for specific countries...

  • Agriculture in Australia feeds over 60 million people, two thirds of them overseas. There is potential to feed many more if a few issues can be sorted out...  read more

› agriculture facts

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almost half the primary production of the planet ends up feeding the human population 

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