What is the role and importance of agriculture in national, regional, and international economies?

1 Answer
Dec 31, 2016

Globally, agriculture makes up a very small portion of GDP and provides work for roughly 1/5th of the world's population. The role of agriculture ranges substantially by country.


Agriculture, which includes products made directly for human consumption but also animal feed and fibers for clothing, varies in its importance and impact on the world. Globally, the agricultural sector makes up very little of the economy, contributing to just under 4% of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 according to the World Bank (see here).

However, the amount agriculture contributes to GDP varies by country, as shown in the map below.

Agriculture contributes to 2.3% of GDP in North Korea, 26.5% of GDP in Madagascar, 45.4% of GDPin Sierra Leone, and 0.7% of GDP in the United Kingdom.

The number of persons working in the agricultural section globally is 19.8% in 2010 (see here), the most recent year for which global data is available. This number too varies; 54% of people are employed in agriculture in Cambodia, 3% in Argentina, and 28% in Romania. The map below shows the number of people employed in agriculture in each country. Note that less data is available (as indicated by the country being in white) than in the previous map.


Agriculture is very diverse and thus farmers in some countries may be very wealthy whereas other farmers within the same country may be very poor. The amount of land farmed, the area of the farmland, the equipment used to farm, the crop being farmed, and other variables make for a range of incomes. Within a particular region or country, how important agriculture is will vary.

To read more about this issue in considerable depth, see this journal article.