Crop production

Hundreds of different crops are cultivated around the world. Some are grown almost everywhere and are produced at a large scale, others are cultivated in small areas and are produced in small quantities. Which of these crops are the most important and have highest production.

The FAOstat website provides production statistics for a wide range of crops and is updated every year. The last complete set of data is from 2012. Using these production data (tons produced per year globally) we can get an idea about the importance of different agricultural crop.

Crops can be grouped in different categories, so let’s see which were the top crops in 2012.


Maize or corn
Cereals are important staple crops. The top three cereals produced in 2012 were maize (corn), rice (paddy) and wheat. The table shows how much of these cereals was produced.

Crop name Tons produced
Maize 872,066,770
Rice 719,738,273
Wheat 670,875,110

With the world population reach 7 billion people in 2012 we can calculate that for every person there was about 125 kg of maize produced in that year. this seems a lot, but of course part of this was consumed by animals.

See also “cereal production” for production data of other cereals.


The top three of fruits produced in 2012 are watermelons, bananas and apples. The following table shows how many of these fruits were produced. For every person in the world this corresponds to about 15 kg watermelons and bananas and 11 kg of apples.

Crop name Tons produced
Watermelons 105,372,341
Bananas 101,992,743
Apples 76,378,738

See also “fruits production” for production data of other fruits.


The top three vegetables produced in 2012 were tomatoes, onions and cabbages. Production figures for these vegetables are in the following table. This is about 23 kg of tomatoes and 12 kg of onions per person. Of course some of these are processed in other products such as ketchup and sauces.

Crop name Tons produced
Tomatoes 161,793,834
Dry onions 82,851,732
Cabbages and other brassicas 70,104,972

For production data of other vegetables see “vegetables production“.


Mixed beans
The top three of pulses in 2012 is headed by dry beans, followed by chick peas and dry peas.

Crop name Tons produced
Beans (dry) 23,598,102
Chick peas 11,625,545
Peas (dry) 9,830,016

Root and tubers

Tuber vegetables - Potato
Potatoes take the lead in root and tuber crops, followed by cassava and sweet potatoes. The total production of potatoes in 2012 with a world population of 7 billion people corresponds to about 52 kg per person.

Crop name Tons produced
Potatoes 364,808,768
Cassava 262,585,741
Sweet potatoes 103,145,500


3 Cotton boll by Drew Avery 5651136889_8762c47d57_b
The most important fiber crop in the world is cotton. Far less important fibers are jute and flax.

Crop name Tons produced
Cotton lint 25,955,096
Jute 3,461,964
Flax fibre and tow 243,115

Oil crops

Oil palm
Of the oil producing crops, the top three are oil palm, soybeans and seed cotton. Not all of these oils are consumed but they are also used as fuels and to produce industrial oils.

Crop name Tons produced
Oil (palm fruit) 249,528,288
Soybeans 241,841,416
Seed cotton 76,530,054


Cashew nuts
Top three treenuts in 2012 were cashew nuts, walnuts and chestnuts. The table below shows their production figures.

Crop name Tons produced
Cashew nuts (with shell) 4,152,315
Walnuts (with shell) 3,418,559
Chestnut 1,998,880

Other crops

And then there are a number of other crops, which cannot be grouped in any of the above categories, but which still are very important on a global scale. The following table shows a few of these crops

Crop name Tons produced
Rubber 11,445,176
Coffee 8,826,903
Mushrooms and truffles 7,959,979
Tobacco 7,490,661
Cocoa beans 5,003,211
Tea 4,818,118
Dry chillies and peppers 3,352,163
Ginger 2,095,056
Lupins 1,290,116

Note: The above data were obtained from the FAOstat website on 10 May 2014.

Scroll to Top