Percent of GDP in agriculture
FIGURE 4.3 GNI per capita based on purchasing power parity plotted against percent of the GDP
in agriculture for the year 2010 (source: data from the World Bank, data.worldbank.
Trends in agricultural land in cultivation
Agricultural production is the product of a particular amount of area under cultivation, mul-
tiplied by the yield of the grain per area. How can a global increase in food production be
achieved - through increases in yields or increases in area being cultivated? The answer
depends on the geographic location and the period of analysis. To achieve increases in yields,
farmers must use technology such as chemical fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides and improved
seeds that can produce much larger yields than traditional, open pollination crops that are
typical in the developing world.
Approximately 11 percent of the Earth's land surface is used for crop production (arable
land and land under permanent crops). According to the FAO, this area represents slightly
over one-third of the land estimated to be in some degree suitable for cultivation (Bru-
insma, 2003). Despite this reality, there is a widespread belief that little more land could be
brought into cultivation at the global scale. Bruinsma (2003) points out that this perception
comes from the regions that are very land scarce, such as in South Asia, Europe or North
Africa. There are other parts of the world, however, that could significantly expand the
amount of land under cultivation (Bruinsma, 2003). These regions often have very little
infrastructure, are currently forested or are protected to some extent from development.
The reality is, in regions with very little access to technology with expanding populations,
to increase production, new lands must be brought into cultivation. Areas that have relied