International Agricultural Productivity

Improving agricultural productivity has been the world's primary means of assuring that the needs of a growing population don't outstrip the ability to supply food. Over the past 50 years, productivity growth in agriculture has allowed food to become more abundant and cheaper even as world population more than doubled (see Growth in Global Agricultural Productivity: An Update, Amber Waves, November 2013, and New Evidence Points to Robust But Uneven Productivity Growth in Global Agriculture, Amber Waves, September 2012). One of the most informative measures of agricultural productivity is total factor productivity (TFP). TFP takes into account all of the land, labor, capital, and material resources employed in farm production and compares them with the total amount of crop and livestock output. If total output is growing faster than total inputs, then the total productivity of the factors of production (i.e., total factor productivity, or TFP) is increasing. TFP differs from measures like crop yield per acre or agricultural value-added per worker because it takes into account a broader set of inputs used in production. TFP encompasses the average productivity of all of these inputs employed in the production of all crop and livestock commodities.

"Growth accounting" provides a practicable way of measuring changes in agricultural TFP over time given available data on agricultural outputs, inputs, and their prices. The approach (described in detail in Documentation and Methods) gives internationally consistent and comparable agricultural TFP growth rates, but not TFP levels. Most of the data on production and input quantities used in this analysis comes from the FAOSTAT database of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In some cases, FAO input and output data are supplemented with data from national statistical sources.

Note that to facilitate international comparisons, certain simplifying assumptions must be made, and as such the estimates of TFP growth reported here may differ from TFP growth estimates reported in other studies using different assumptions or methods. In particular, the agricultural TFP estimates reported here for the United States differ from those reported in the ERS Agricultural Productivity in the U.S. data product. See the full Documentation and Methods for more detail.

The spreadsheets available below for downloading contain annual agricultural TFP indexes for individual countries, major global regions, and for countries grouped by income levels. The files also contain the input and output data used in the construction of the TFP indexes. See the "Explanation" tab in each workbook for a detailed description of the content.

The TFP series is an index with a base year of 2005, such that the value of TFP for each country or region is set to 100 in 2005. Thus, the value of the index in any year is the level of TFP relative to 2005. For example, a TFP index value of 120 in 2016 means that TFP increased from 100 to 120, or by 20 percent, between 2005 and 2016. This means that in 2016, 20 percent more output would be obtained from the same amount of inputs that were utilized in 2005. Comparing TFP indexes among countries or regions shows where TFP is growing faster or slower but does not indicate where productivity levels are higher or lower.

Errata: On November 21, 2019, the collection of data files in the International Agricultural Productivity data product were revised to correct an error in the reported gross agricultural output for "Ethiopia, former" for the years 2011-16. Estimates of 2011-16 agricultural output and derived total factor productivity were revised for "Ethiopia, former," and the regions of "SSA, Horn," "Africa, Sub-Sahara," "Developing Countries," "Low Income Countries," and "World." The charts available in the Summary Findings were also revised where needed; at the most aggregated level, for example, average annual global agricultural output growth over 2001-16 is now 2.45 percent, not 2.47 percent per year as originally reported.

Data Set Last Updated Next Update
Agricultural total factor productivity growth indices for individual countries, 1961-2016 11/21/2019
Agricultural total factor productivity growth indices for geographic regions, 1961-2016 11/21/2019
Agricultural total factor productivity growth indices for regions (countries grouped by income class), 1961-2016 11/21/2019
Comma separated file (CSV) of TFP indices for countries, regions, countries grouped by income level, and the world, 1961-2016 11/21/2019