International Agricultural Productivity

Productivity growth in agriculture has allowed food to become more abundant and cheaper even as the world’s population has increased. One of the most informative measures of agricultural productivity is total factor productivity (TFP). TFP measures the amount of agricultural output produced from the combined set of land, labor, capital, and material resources employed in farm production. If total output is growing faster than total inputs, then the total productivity of the factors of production (i.e., total factor productivity) is increasing.

The USDA Economic Research Service’s data product on International Agricultural Productivity (IAP) provides annual indices of agricultural TFP for countries and regions of the world beginning in 1961. The series has been revised and updated with this release, see Update and Revision History for details.

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 agricultural commodities. Growth in TFP reflects the overall rate of technical and efficiency change in the sector. Over the long term, improvement in agricultural productivity has been the world's primary means of assuring that the needs of a growing population don't outstrip the capacity of the world’s resources to supply food.

"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 UN organizations, namely the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO). These are supplemented with data from national statistical agencies, business organizations and published academic studies.

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. The agricultural TFP index reported in Agricultural Productivity in the U.S. utilizes domestic data sources that provide greater detail and complementary methods to exploit this additional information; nevertheless, the agricultural TFP index reported for the United States in the International Agricultural Productivity data product is better suited for making international comparisons because methods and data definitions are consistent across countries.

The IAP spreadsheet available for download contains annual indices for agricultural TFP, outputs, and inputs for individual countries, major global regions, and for countries grouped by income levels. The file also contains detailed data on land, labor, capital and material (or intermediate) inputs used in the construction of the TFP indices. See the "Explanation" page in the spreadsheet for a detailed description of the content.

Each TFP data series is an index with a base year of 2015, such that the value of TFP for each country or region is set to 100 in 2015. Thus, the value of the index in any year is the level of TFP relative to 2015. For example, a TFP index value of 110 in 2019 means that TFP increased from 100 to 110, or by 10 percent, between 2015 and 2019. This means that in 2019, 10 percent more output was obtained from a similar amount of inputs than in 2015. Comparing TFP indices among countries or regions shows where TFP is growing faster or slower but does not indicate where productivity levels are higher or lower.

Data Set Last Updated Next Update
TFP indices and components for countries, regions, countries grouped by income level, and the world, 1961-2019 10/22/2021
Machine-readable and long format file of TFP indices and components for countries, regions, countries grouped by income level, and the world, 1961-2019 10/22/2021