- 81% of global crops are grown on farms less than 199 hectares.
- China leads the world production of rice, wheat and many vegetables and operates mainly small farms, to supply its own growing population
- Big farms have a minority share in crop production, only contributing to 5% of worldwide crop growth.
84 percent of a total of estimated 570 million farms worldwide were cultivating less than two hectares of agricultural land in 2018. Due to the low labor productivity and grueling work conditions on small farms, their yield stands in stark contrast to their total numbers: Only 29 percent of the global production of crops for food, animal feed and fuel come from land cultivated by smallholders according to Our World in Data. As our chart shows, most of the crops still are generated on farms smaller than 200 hectares or 500 acres though.
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Roughly 81 percent of all food, feed and fuel crops were grown on farms of up to 199 hectares. Taking into account the average farm sizes of the biggest crop producing countries in the world, this number becomes less surprising. China leads the world production of rice, wheat and many vegetables and operates mainly small farms, often smaller than half a hectare, to supply its own growing population. The roughly two million farms in the U.S., which is the biggest producer of maize, soybeans and almonds, have an average size of 444 acres or 180 hectares on the other hand.
Only five percent of the total amount of crops are grown on big farms larger than 1,000 hectares like the family farm of world-leading almond and pistachio producers Stewart and Lynda Resnick with roughly 77,000 hectares or 190,000 acres. This divide also shows a discrepancy in terminology: The term "family farms" is often used to describe smallholdings, while in reality, it can be any farm owned by one individual or a group of individuals where the labor is mainly supplied by the family.
What is the World Economic Forum doing to help ensure global food security?
Two billion people in the world currently suffer from malnutrition and according to some estimates, we need 60% more food to feed the global population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of the world’s water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has fallen behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption.
Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose Platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.
With research, increasing investments in new agriculture technologies and the integration of local and regional initiatives aimed at enhancing food security, the platform is working with over 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.