Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Working Paper - Background paper for The State of Food and Agriculture
Title What do we really know about the number and distribution of farms and family farms in the world?
Volume 8
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
URL http://www.globalagriculture.org/fileadmin/files/weltagrarbericht/GlobalAgriculture/Familyfarmsnumbe​rCFS.pdf
The agricultural economics literature provides various estimates of the number of farms and small
farms in the world. This paper is an effort to provide a more complete and up to date as well as
carefully documented estimate of the total number of farms in the world, as well as by region and
level of income. It uses data from numerous rounds of the World Census of Agriculture, the only
dataset available which allows the user to gain a complete picture of the total number of farms
globally and at the country level. The paper provides estimates of the number of family farms, the
number of farms by size as well as the distibution of farmland by farm size. These estimates find that:
there are at least 570 million farms worldwide, of which more than 500 million can be considered
family farms. Most of the world’s farms are very small, with more than 475 million farms being less
than 2 hectares in size. Although the vast majority of the world’s farms are smaller than 2 hectares,
they operate only a small share of the world’s farmland. Farmland distribution would seem quite
unequal at the global level, but it is less so in low- and lower-middle-income countries as well as in
some regional groups. These estimates have serious limitations and the collection of more up-to-date
agricultural census data, including data on farmland distribution is essential to our having a more
representative picture of the number of farms, the number of family farms and farm size as well as
farmland distribution worldwide.

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