Although global trade in agricultural products has increased, much of the food produced within countries is consumed domestically. Regions with the highest populations are experiencing the greatest degree of climate change pressures and have the least integrated regional markets.
This section presents selected data on key trends in global markets:
- Data on farm and holding size
- Data on production by farm size
- Trends in global food trade
- Spatial patterns of food trade
- Shares and trends in food retail
- Investments in agriculture
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Land & Holding Size
Over 80% of global land holdings are less than 2 ha, with low-income regions having a higher percentage of small farms.
Agricultural Land by Population
Rural population dynamics are strongly linked with average farm sizes. South Asia is already experiencing extreme land scarcity, with projections set to increase dramatically for sub-Saharan Africa.
Agricultural Holdings & Agricultural Area
Within Africa, the highest share of agricultural holdings is for holdings <1 ha in size – 53.4% of Africa’s farming is on 11% of the agricultural area.
Food Production by Farm Size
Globally, farms <50 ha produce between 51-77% of the major food groups for human consumption (by volume) – however, there are significant regional differences between farm size and food produced.
Source: Herrero, M., Thornton, P.K., Power, B., Bogard, J.R., Remans, R., Fritz, S., Gerber, J.S., Nelson, G., See, L., Waha, K. and Watson, R.A., 2017. Farming and the geography of nutrient production for human use: a transdisciplinary analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health, 1(1), pp.e33-e42.
Agricultural Trade Volume
International trade in agricultural products have been on the rise, except for the slumps during the global financial crisis of 2008-09.
Composition of Agricultural Trade
Wheat, soybean, and maize make up 50% of the caloric export, but only 21% of the value.
Source: MacDonald, G.K., Brauman, K.A., Sun, S., Carlson, K.M., Cassidy, E.S., Gerber, J.S. and West, P.C., 2015. Rethinking agricultural trade relationships in an era of globalization. BioScience, 65(3), pp.275-289.
Regional Agricultural Trade Volume
Despite increase in trade, most of the food consumed in a country is produced domestically – net imports are in range of 0-20% of domestic food supply in many instances.
Agricultural Trade Volume
Growth of trade volumes is expected to slow in the next 10 years, consistent with the slower growth of demand. However, the importance of trade differs by commodity.
Share of Food Retail Trade
In much of Asia, most food purchases in urban areas are made in supermarkets. Hypermarkets, large supermarkets and convenience stores account for 93% of purchases in North America.
Products, markets & investments
Domestic investors invest more in food crops for domestic markets.
Net Food Imports
Countries with high population growth, and greatest effects of climate change import the most food as part of their domestic food supply.
Source: Bendjebbar Pauline, Bricas Nicolas, Giordano Thierry, 2019. Food systems at risk. A scientific handout for the High Level Event of the Global Network against Food Crises: Food & Agriculture in times of crisis, Brussels, 2-3 April 2019. 48 p.