The Most Produced, Valuable, & Important Foods & Crops Worldwide

When looking at the agriculture industry, or looking into the foods we eat – it’s a good idea to get an overall picture how much, and from where everything is produced.

In this guide, we’ve outlined the most produced foods, the most valuable, and the countries they come from.

Not only can we get an idea of the foods that are produced and consumed the most, and the impact on the economy, but we can also use this information when looking at other issues such as GMO crops and foods, water used to produce foods and crops, pesticide and synthetic fertilizer used to produce crops and food, and more


Summary – Most Produced, Most Valuable & Most Important Foods Worldwide

Rice paddy, cattle meat, pig meat and whole cow’s milk lead the way in terms of the most valuable agricultural products worldwide in 2012 – based purely on dollar value

There are 15 plant crops that provide 90 percent of the world’s food energy intake (exclusive of meat), with rice, maize (corn), and wheat comprising 2/3 of human food consumption. 

Rice, corn and wheat are the three are the staples of about 80 percent of the world population, and rice feeds almost half of humanity (

Wheat, maize (corn), rice and barley are some of the crops that take up the most square area of crop land in the world

There’s several ways to measure which countries produce the most agricultural products – per tonne, per calorie, per gram of protein, per serving produced, and so on

The United States, China, Russia, and India feature heavily among many food product production rankings. African countries, Brazil and Turkey also feature prominently.

Developed countries may have reached the point of diminishing returns in terms of increasing agricultural output significantly

Technology advancements, efficiency of farming methods, and scientific methods like GMO crops might be where output increases are available in the future

Developing countries might look to bringing in more commercial, industrial and mass scale developed country farming techniques to increase agricultural output – although, this depends on factors like investment, finances and suitable land (amongst other factors)

There’s several factors to keep in mind that can impact how and where crops grow worldwide


Most Valuable Crops & Livestock

This was the global value of the following food and drink products in US billions of dollars in 2012, and also the country who produced the most value of those products in brackets:

Rice, paddy – $337 (US billions of dollars of global value in 2012) (Mainland China)

Cattle, meat – $336B US (United States)

Pig, meat – $306B US (Mainland China)

Cows Milk, whole, fresh – $286B US (United States)

Chicken, meat – $128B US (United States)

Wheat – $84B US (Mainland China)

Soybeans – $65B US (United States)

Tomato – $58B US (Mainland China)

Sugarcane – $57B US (Brazil)

Maize (corn) – $55B US (United States)

Eggs, in shell – $54B US (Mainland China)

Potato – $50B US (Mainland China)

Vegetables, not elsewhere specified – $46B US (Mainland China)

Grapes – $39B US (Mainland China)

Water Buffalo Milk – $38B US (India)

Apples – $32B US (Mainland China)

Bananas – $29B US (India)

Cassava (yuca) – $25B US (Nigeria)

Mangos, Mangosteens, & Guavas – $23B US (India)

Sheep, meat – $22B US (Mainland China)

Coffee – $22B US (Brazil)

Palm Oil – $20B US (Indonesia)

Onions, dry – $18B US (Mainland China)

Beans, dry and green – $17B US (Mainland China)

Peanuts, in shell – $17B US (Mainland China)

Olives – $16B US (Spain)

Rapeseed – $15B US (Canada)

Almonds, in shell – $15B US (United States)

Walnuts, with shell – $14B US (Mainland China)

Chillis & Peppers, green and dry – $13B US (Mainland China)

Tea – $12B US (Mainland China)

Oranges – $12B US (Brazil)

Cucumbers – $12B US (Mainland China)

Yams – $12B US (Nigeria)

Peaches, nectarines – $11B US (Mainland China)

Lettuce, chicory – $11B US (Mainland China)

Cacao (chocolate) – $10B US (Ivory Coast)

Goat, meat – $10B US (Mainland China)

Sunflower seed – $10B US (Russia)

Sugar beets – $10B US (France)

Watermelons – $10B US (Mainland China)

Buffalo, meat – $9B US (India)

Asparagus – $7B US (Mainland China)

Turkey, meat – $7B US (United States)

Carrots, turnips – $7B US (Mainland China)

Duck, meat – $7B US (Mainland China)

Coconuts – $6B US (India)

Tangerines – $6B US (Mainland China)

Lemons, Limes – $5B US (Mainland China)

Strawberries – $5B US (United States)

Chestnut – $5B US (Mainland China)

Hazelnut, in shell – $2B US (Turkey)



Most Important Staple Foods

Just 15 plant crops provide 90 percent of the world’s food energy intake (exclusive of meat), with rice, maize (corn), and wheat comprising 2/3 of human food consumption.

These three are the staples of about 80 percent of the world population, and rice feeds almost half of humanity.

Ten important staple foods ranked by global importance and their annual global production from 2012, and the country who produced the most in brackets are:

Maize (corn) – 873 million (metric tons produced globally in 2012) (United States)

Rice – 738 million (China)

Wheat – 671 million (China)

Potatoes – 365 million (China)

Cassava – 269 million (Nigeria)

Soybeans – 241 million (United States)

Sweet Potatoes – 108 million (China)

Yams – 59.5 million (Nigeria)

Sorghum – 57.0 million (United States)

Plantain – 37.2 million (Uganda)



How Much Of The World’s Land The Major Crops Take Up (In Area)

The Area and Relative Proportion of the 18 Major Crop Categories are:

Crop Area, 1000 km2 Relative Fraction, %
Wheat 4,028 22
Maize 2,271 13
Rice 1,956 11
Barley 1,580 9
Soybeans 927 5
Pulses 794 4
Cotton 534 3
Potatoes 501 3
Sorghum 501 3
Millet 331 2
Sunflower 290 2
Rye 288 2
Rapeseed/canola 283 2
Sugar cane 265 1
Groundnuts/peanuts 247 1
Cassava 235 1
Sugar beets 154 1
Oil palm fruit 72 <1
Total of major 18 crops 15,256 85
Others 2664 15
Total cropland 17,920 100


You can also read about the geographical distribution of these crops around the world in terms of what countries they are found in in this agupubs resource 


Top Agricultural Producing Countries

There’s several ways you might classify a top agricultural producing country such as:

Total tonnage of food produced

Total value of food produced

The production efficiency or yield of the country


You also have to look at agricultural production by individual crops, as some countries grow some crops or food products much better than others due to things like climate, conditions, land, resources etc.

The United States, China, Russia, and India certainly do feature heavily though among many food product production rankings. African countries, Brazil and Turkey also feature prominently.

Some resources for reading about the top agricultural producing countries are:

List of the largest producing countries of agricultural commodities (

Top agricultural producing countries (


Types Of Agricultural Food Products

Broad categories of agricultural food products might be:










There are then non food products like fibers and forest products.



How Might The World Increase Agricultural Output Into The Future

There’s a big difference in how developed vs developing countries farm, and the output of these countries.


According to

Developed countries already have well developed infrastructure, and already make use of a lot of land, pesticides and fertilisers, as well as advanced technology, irrigation and machinery.

Technology advancements, efficiency of farming method, and scientific methods like GMO crops are likely to be where output increases.

Less developed countries do not have advanced technology, infrastructure or scientific methods available, so simply increasing use of resources, building up infrastructure and introducing technology and modern machinery and systems may see an increase in yield and output.









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