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Two Decades of UN Data: Increases in Food Production, Hunger, and Obesity

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released on November 29 its statistical yearbook for 2023 on world food and agriculture. The report is categorized by chapters in economics, production, food security, and environmental considerations, covering data from 2000 to 2022. As a frame of reference, the world population in 2000 and 2022 are estimated as 6.149 billion and 7.975 billion people, respectively, based on the UN’s Data Portal. This corresponds to an increase of roughly 29.7% over this period. 

Increases in Food Production, Hunger, and Obesity
  1. The value of agriculture in 2021 was USD 3.7 trillion, up from roughly USD 2.0 trillion in 2000. Meanwhile, pesticide use rose to 3.5 million tons, or a 62% increase from 2000. 

  2. In 2021, primary crop production was 9.5 billion tons, or a 54% increase from 2000. 

  3. Also in 2021, meat production was 357 million tons, or a 53% increase from 2000. Chicken meat accounted for more than half of this increase (of 124 million tons). 

  4. From 2019 to 2022, the number of undernourished people in the world rose to 735 million, an increase of 122 million. This figure is lower than both 804.9 million in 2000 and the peak of 822.5 million in 2002, but it is part of an increasing trend from the minimum of 572.1 million from 2012. 

  5. World obesity in the adult population increased from 8.7% in 2000 to 13.1% in 2016. Although all regions experienced a rise in obesity, notable increases occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean (16.6% to 24.2%), North America and Europe (19.5% to 26.9%), and Oceania (19.5% to 28.1%). 

  6. Shares of world agricultural land declined by 86 million ha (212 million acres) and forest area declined by 104 million ha (260 million acres) between 2000 and 2021, to 4.78 billion ha (11.8 billion acres) and 4.05 billion ha (10 billion acres), respectively (Table 49). Africa saw an increase in its agricultural land, but this was offset by decreases in the rest of world. Also, increases in share of forest land in Asia, Europe, and Oceania were offset by decreases in Africa and the Americas (Table 50). 

  7. Despite this, the global harvested area of primary crops rose to 1.5 billion ha (3.7 billion acres) in 2021, corresponding to a 24% increase from 2000. 


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