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 percent change in TFP relative to 2005. For example, a TFP index value of 120 in 2015 means that TFP increased from 100 to 120, or by 20 percent, between 2005 and 2015. This means that in 2015, 20 percent more output was obtained from each unit of input compared with 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.

A new feature of the October 2018 release is that it contains agricultural TFP indexes for countries and territories that were established after 1961. These include Ethiopia and Eritrea (since 1993), the Czech Republic and Slovakia (since 1994), the countries of former Yugoslavia (since 1994), and the West Bank and Gaza (since 1994). Also, since 2002, FAO began to report data for Belgium and Luxembourg separately, and the October 2018 release gives separate TFP indexes for these countries from 2002 onward. As in previous releases, the October 2018 release continues to report the TFP index for the aggregates of these countries starting from 1961. For the former Soviet Socialist Republics, the October 2018 release reports agricultural TFP beginning in 1961, even though FAO did not begin to report data for these nations until 1992. 


Data Set Last Updated Next Update
Agricultural total factor productivity growth indices for individual countries, 1961-2015 10/15/2018 10/14/2019
Agricultural total factor productivity growth indices for geographic regions, 1961-2015 10/15/2018 10/14/2019
Agricultural total factor productivity growth indices for regions (countries grouped by income class), 1961-2015 10/15/2018 10/14/2019
Comma separated file (CSV) of TFP indices for countries, regions, countries grouped by income level, and the world, 1961-2015 10/15/2018 10/14/2019