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Visualizing the Importance of Agriculture in the World's Economy

One of the things that everyone on earth has in common is the need for food. As a result, agricultural production plays a pivotal role in the world economy. Factors like climate, arable land, access to technology, and amount of human labor affect agricultural production in different parts of the world. Our new series of visualizations take a closer look at how agriculture as a share of GDP varies from country to country, as well as how many workers worldwide are employed through agriculture.

agriculture as a share of GDP around the world

  • As of 2018, agriculture only represents 3% of the world’s GDP, down from 4% in 2010.
  • Even though agriculture represents a small share of the world’s economic output, this industry employs almost 30% of all workers.
  • Developing countries are more likely than developed countries to rely on agriculture as a larger percentage of GDP.
  • Overall, agriculture as a share of total GDP is highest in countries in Africa and South Asia.

The information in this visualization comes from the World Bank, which publishes a database for each country’s output (GDP) as well as the breakdown by agriculture, industry, manufacturing, and services. In the visualization above, the countries in the map are shaded based on the percentage of GDP that agriculture represents in each country. Lighter shades indicate a smaller share of GDP and darker shades represent a larger share of GDP. 

Using additional information from The World Bank’s World Development Indicators, we can also determine how agricultural production and employment vary by country. The visualizations below list each country’s GDP earned from agriculture, and indicates agricultural employment by the different shades of green (lighter shades are for less employment, and darker shades are for more employment). In addition, the countries appear bigger if their agricultural output is larger, and the countries appear smaller if their agricultural output is smaller. Here is the breakdown by region.

agriculture as a share of GDP in america

Top 3 Countries in the Americas by Agricultural Output

1. United States - $204.9 billion - 1.42% employed in agriculture
2. Brazil - $74.4 billion - 9.39% employed in agriculture
3. Mexico - $36.7 billion - 12.99% employed in agriculture

Within the Americas, there is a huge disparity between agricultural production in developed and developing countries. Developed countries like the U.S. employ fewer people, but produce more agricultural output. Countries in Central America and the west coast of South America have a higher percentage of the population engaged in agriculture.

agriculture as a share of GDP in asia

Top 3 Countries in Asia by Agricultural Output

1. China - $952.6 billion - 26.77% employed in agriculture
2. India - $381.7 billion - 43.86% employed in agriculture
3. Indonesia - $135.5 billion - 30.53% employed in agriculture

Countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia have the highest agricultural production in this region, as well as the highest employment in agriculture. By contrast, countries in the Middle East like Oman and Yemen have the lowest agricultural output. Some economies, like fast-developing India, rely heavily on agriculture for both growth and livelihood. In other South Asian countries like Nepal and Myanmar, more than half of the population is employed in agriculture.

agriculture as a share of GDP in africa

Top 3 Countries in Africa by Agricultural Output

1. Nigeria - $83.4 billion - 36.62% employed in agriculture
2. Kenya - $29.9 billion - 57.45% employed in agriculture
3. Egypt - $27.6 billion - 24.87% employed in agriculture

Much of the African economy relies on agricultural production. In eight African countries, including Sierra Leone, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau, more than a third of GDP comes from agricultural output. Similarly, in seven African countries, including Niger, Chad, and Uganda, more than 70% of the population is employed in agriculture.

agriculture as a share of GDP in europe

Top 3 Countries in Europe by Agricultural Output

1. France - $55.6 billion - 2.6% employed in agriculture
2. Turkey - $46 billion - 19.2% employed in agriculture
3. Spain - $42.8 billion - 4.31% employed in agriculture

In most European countries, less than 10% of each country’s population is employed in agriculture. The exceptions are mostly located in Eastern Europe, with countries like Albania, Azerbaijan, and Georgia employing more than 30% of their populations in agriculture. The European countries with the highest agricultural output are mostly located in Western Europe, with the exception of Turkey in the southeast.

agriculture as a share of GDP in oceania

Top 3 Countries in Oceania by Agricultural Output

1. Australia - $43 billion - 2.57% employed in agriculture
2. New Zealand - $14.4 billion - 6.16% employed in agriculture
3. Papua New Guinea - $4.2 billion - 67.66% employed in agriculture

While Australia and New Zealand have low employment in agriculture, some of the Pacific island nations such as Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste employ more than half of their workers in agriculture.  

Given its importance to the worldwide economy, agriculture is one of the most appealing markets for disruption, and also for growth. For example, the Canadian government is investing 49.5 million in technology like robotic harvesters and computer networks to digitize and automate aspects of agricultural production. Similarly, Israel’s efforts to further modernize agriculture through pollination intelligence and fruit-harvesting drones have garnered international attention. Advances in technology are likely to further change agricultural output around the world, as well as the need for human workers within this industry.

What surprised you the most about how agriculture varies around the world? Please let us know in the comments.

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