Agriculture: Facts and figures
We wouldn’t have any food without agriculture. But how many resources do crops and animal farming consume? And what happens to the food products? An overview of the key facts
How land is used worldwide (in km2) About half of the habitable part of the Earth’s surface (approximately 51 million square kilometers) is used for agricultural purposes. Over the past 200 years, people have cleared forested areas the size of South America in order to grow crops and raise livestock. This has had a big impact on the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
How the world’s harvests are used, in millions of tons (t) More than 3.2 billion tons of crops were harvested in 2018. Most of it was corn. However, only slightly more than one third of the harvests are directly used for food. Almost half is turned into animal feed. This is especially the case with soybeans, which are grown on a particularly large scale in the USA, Brazil, and Argentina.
Water use for food production, in liters per kilogram of end product Widely different amounts of water are needed for the production of the various types of food. While two bathtubs full of water are needed on average to grow a kilogram of vegetables, almost 100 bathtubs full are required for one kilogram of beef.
What people eat worldwide (global averages) People’s diets consist primarily of fruits and vegetables, followed by grain, dairy products, and eggs. However, the size and composition of meals varies greatly, depending on the region and the individual person.
National Geographic, OECD, FAO, AT Kearney, University of Twente, WWF
15 January 2020
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