Global production of primary crops increased by 53 per cent to 9.4 billion tonnes between 2000 and 2019 due to a combination of factors such as irrigation, pesticides, fertilizers and, to a lesser extent, a larger cultivated area, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said 

Cereals made up a little less than 30 per cent of the total primary crops produced in 2019, sugar crops 24 per cent, vegetables and oil crops 12 per cent each and fruits, roots and tubers each nine per cent, the UN food security body said in its Statistical Yearbook 2021. 

Top four crops

Water guzzler sugarcane topped the four individual crops that accounted for 49 per cent of the global production of primary crops. The sweetener crop made up 21 per cent of the total world primary crops production followed by maize at 12 per cent, rice and wheat, which contributed eight per cent each. Oil palm fruit and potatoes accounted for four per cent each of the global crop production. 

The period saw maize (corn) production increase three times faster than wheat or rice. Both these crops made up 10 per cent each of the total crop production in 2000 and by 2001, maize had topped rice as the second-most produced crop worldwide.

Top five fruits

 The FAO said world fruit production increased by 54 per cent during the period to 883 million tonnes with five fruit species - bananas and plantains, watermelons, apples, oranges and grapes, contributing 57 per cent of the total world production. The output was lower than the 63 per cent they made in 2000, though. 

Tomatoes hold ground

According to the FAO, production of vegetables across the world increased the fastest during the period by 65 per cent to 1.13 billion tonnes in 2019. Tomatoes (16 per cent in 2019), onions (nine per cent), cucumbers and gherkins (eight per cent), cabbages (six per cent) and eggplants (brinjal - five per cent) made up 42-45 per cent of the total production during 2000-2019. 

The food agency said the share of onions, cucumbers and gherkins and eggplants increased during the period, while that of cabbages halved even as tomatoes’ share remained stable.

The FAO said Americas led in production of sugarcane, accounting for 52 per cent of the global production, and maize - 49 per cent of world output. Asia topped in production of rice with a 90 per cent of the global share, oil palm fruit with a 88 per cent share, wheat with a 44 per cent share and potatoes accounting for 51 per cent of the global world production. 

Vegoils more than double

Another feature of the global production of crops is that the output of vegetable oils more than doubled between 2000 and 2018 to 201 million tonnes. Palm oil increased the most - its output rising by 222 per cent or 49 million tonnes - with its use for biodiesel behind its spectacular growth. 

Rapeseed oil that accounted for 12 per cent and sunflower oil which made up nine per cent were the other main vegetable oils produced worldwide. 

About 85 per cent of the global palm oil production came from just two countries - Indonesia (57 per cent) and Malaysia (27 per cent). In the case of soyabean oil, China was the main producer producing 29 per cent of the global output, while the US contributed 19 per cent as the next best. 

Canada (17 per cent) led in rapeseed oil production followed by China (15 per cent. Ukraine contributed the largest share of 28 per cent to global sunflower oil production followed by its neighbour-turned-foe Russia, which produced 25 per cent of the total global production.

Chicken most produced meat

Production of meat increased by 44 per cent to 337 million tonnes from 2000 to 2019 with chicken meat accounting for 50 per cent of the total increase in production. Chicken was the most produced type of meat in 2019 followed by beef. 

Cereals were the most traded commodity in terms of quantity in 2019 with Europe and the Americas being the largest exporters and Asia the biggest importer. 

Value-addition in agriculture went up by 73 per cent to $3.5 trillion between 2000 and 2019, while the share of agriculture in global GDP remained stable at four per cent. 

Global hunger increases

Despite the sharp growth in primary crops, vegetables and fruits, global hunger increased with 770 million people being under-nourished in 2020. This was 160 million more than the numbers in 2014 and 118 million higher than 2019. 

However, the share of the global workforce employed in the agriculture sector decreased from 40 per cent or 1.05 billion to 27 per cent or 874 million during the period. 

The use of pesticides increased 36 per cent during the period, though it has plateaued since 2012. The use of inorganic fertilizers was about 190 million tonnes in 2019 with nitrogen making up 57 per cent of it.

Overall, the FAO said agriculture, forestry and fishing global value-addition was 73 per cent in real terms, touching $3.5 trillion in 2018, up $1.5 trillion since 2000. While Asia was the main contributor - 64 per cent - to the value addition, Africa’s value-addition more than doubled during the period to $404 billion.