Everyone needs food, but agricultural production tends to be concentrated in the larger countries as well as those with the most accommodating climate in their growing areas. Population size is also crucial because most agricultural production is still consumed locally or locally, despite the rapid growth of international trade in agricultural products,
The four major food-producing countries in the world – China, India, the United States and Brazil – share the advantages of a large population, vast territory and climatic zones conducive to the cultivation of various cultures, although there are also major differences in the role that food production plays in their economies.
Below, we’ll look at the agricultural strengths and weaknesses of each of the four major food producers.
Key points to remember
- The world’s top food-producing countries – China, India, the United States and Brazil – also rank among the top 10 by land area.
- China is the world’s largest grain producer, but has become more dependent on food imports in recent decades.
- Much of India’s production is produced by subsistence farmers and consumed locally.
- The United States is the world’s largest food exporter thanks to high agricultural yields and extensive agricultural infrastructure.
- Brazil is the world’s fourth largest food producer and the world’s second largest importer; it is highly dependent on imports from China.
China was by far the world’s largest agricultural producer with an annual output in 2020 valued at $1.56 trillion, including $1.5 trillion in food, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). ).
Agricultural production includes both food and non-food products. Examples of non-food agricultural products include silk, rubber, wool, cotton and tobacco.
A key factor was China’s status as the world’s most populous country with a population of 1.45 billion in 2022, slightly ahead of India’s 1.41 billion.
China has only 10% of the world’s arable land, but produces a quarter of the world’s grain production and leads the world in the production of cereals, cotton, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs and fish products, according to the FAO. While much of China’s territory is too mountainous or too arid for agriculture, the rich soils of its eastern and southern regions are extremely productive.
China also has one of the largest agricultural labor pools in the world. Although the proportion of workers in food production declined steadily from 60% in 1991, agricultural work still accounted for 25% of national employment in 2019.
Despite the growth of Chinese agricultural production, it would have gone from being completely self-sufficient in food production from 2000 to relying on imports for more than 23% of its food needs by 2020. soybean production, increased grain imports and the continued loss of agricultural land to industrial and urban development have been blamed.
In 2019, China overtook the United States and the EU to become the world’s largest importer of agricultural products, with imports valued at $133.1 billion. Import growth was driven by land-intensive crops such as soybeans, sorghum and cotton, as well as meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables due to growing consumer demand.
The second largest country in the world by population, India had the second highest agricultural output at $403.5 billion and in 2020. Of this total agricultural output, $382.2 billion was attributable to the production eating.
India is the world’s largest producer of milk, jute, and pulses (a class of pulses that includes dried beans, lentils, and chickpeas). India is also the world’s second largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables, cotton and groundnuts.
Although it has achieved self-sufficiency in grain production, India remains heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture, by far the poorest country on this list per capita. This has dictated the inefficient use of limited resources, especially water, leaving production dependent on seasonal monsoons and crop yields below the global average. Weak infrastructure and product distribution systems have caused post-harvest losses of up to 40% for some crops.
Despite these obstacles, India remains the world’s largest exporter of refined sugar and milled rice. Strong exports of rice, cotton, soybeans and meat helped India rise to 9th place among global agricultural exporters in 2019.
The United States ranked third in 2020 agricultural production with $307.4 billion – of which $306.4 billion was food – despite employing a small fraction of the labor force agriculture in China or India. Corn, soybeans, dairy, wheat and sugar cane were the top five US agricultural products by value in the same year.
Yields and production of cereal crops have continued to increase despite a significant decline in the area sown in recent decades.
The United States was by far the world’s largest agricultural exporter in 2020 with exports valued at $147.9 billion. In 2021, the value of US exports reached a record $177 billion, punctuated by a 25% increase in exports to China to $33 billion. Canada, Mexico and Japan are also major importers of US agricultural products.
California accounted for 13.5% of US agricultural production in 2020, nearly twice as much as any other state, with dairy, almonds and grapes being its top staples. Other major agricultural producers include Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, Minnesota and Illinois.
After a slowdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, prices of major agricultural commodities rebounded in 2021 and then reached record highs in early 2022 as the Russian invasion of Ukraine jeopardized supplies from two major grain exporters.
Brazil was the world’s fourth largest agricultural producer in 2020 with production valued at $135.8 billion. $125.3 billion of Brazil’s agricultural production is food. Brazil’s agricultural export value of $85.2 billion in 2020 ranked it third after the United States and the Netherlands.
The Brazilian economy has historically focused on agriculture, especially sugar cane. The proportion of the workforce employed in agriculture has declined steadily over the past three decades, from 20% in 1991 to 9% in 2019.
Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of soybeans, raw sugar and poultry. Its soybean exports of $28.6 billion in 2020 were the largest for an agricultural product from a single country. China accounted for more than $30 billion of Brazil’s agricultural exports that year, nine times more than the second-largest importer.
Which countries produce the most food?
China, India, the United States and Brazil are the world’s leading agricultural producers, in that order.
Which country is the biggest exporter of food?
The United States is the largest food exporter, accounting for more than 10% of total global exports in 2020.
Which countries produce the most food waste?
Unfortunately, many countries contribute to food waste. According to a 2021 United Nations study, the United States discards approximately 21.3 million tons of food each year. The UK wastes over 5.7 million tonnes of food every year, while China wastes over 100 million tonnes a year. It is estimated that in 2019 there were over a billion tons of food waste.
Many factors influence the level of food production in a country, including land area, population size, climate, and the quality of agricultural infrastructure and technology. While the United States is the leading exporter of agricultural products, other countries, including China, India and Brazil, have emerged as major suppliers of food products.