Food and Agriculture Organization of the United NationsFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

What do you want to know?

FAO’s new open data policy makes fact-finding and information-sharing easier

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Build up your knowledge on food and agriculture with some of these key FAO databases. ©Andis Rea/


Do you see the world in numbers? Do you study charts like an art lover studies Renoir? Do you love statistics in all its forms? Well, FAO does too! When it comes to food and agriculture data, FAO is one of the world leaders in knowledge. Subject experts and in-house statisticians work day in and day out to collect, validate and disseminate data and information on food and agriculture, from hunger, malnutrition and rural poverty to food systems and the sustainable use of natural resources. The goal? To help governments make the right decisions about programmes, policies and investments and to help individuals further their scientific research on important topics that affect the planet.

FAO has many different statistical databases on topics as wide-ranging as agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, forestry, food prices and market information, economic, social and rural development, nutrition, natural, genetic and biodiversity resources and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  It is, in fact, a large part of FAO’s mandate to collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate all types of information related to food, agriculture and the sustainable management of natural resources.

Knowledge is meant to be shared, and FAO has always encouraged the use of our data to inform humanitarian work or enhance scientific advancement. However, now that we have adopted an open data licensing policy, it is even easier for researchers, journalists, scholars, humanitarian workers or students to access, download, copy and employ these data sets for free and for redistribution.

Here are 5 interesting facts and just some of the many data sources that we encourage you to use and share with the rest of the world:

1.  Bananas are the most consumed fruit in the world.


Worldwide, humans consume more than 88 million tonnes of bananas every year. This interesting bit of information is taken from one of FAO’s largest food and agriculture database: FAOSTAT. This resource provides data for over 245 countries and territories and has information dating back to 1961. Whether you are looking for what country is the top producer of grapes or the commodity most exported by Egypt, for example, FAOSTAT can provide you with this information in chart, table or comma-separated value (.csv) formats.

2.  Over the past 70 years, water withdrawal in Asia has tripled.


Water use in Asia has grown immensely. By far, the largest share of this total water withdrawal (81 percent) is used for agriculture. This number reaches more than 90 percent in South Asia. FAO AQUASTAT collects, analyses and disseminates information on water resources, water use, agricultural water management and water-related policies and legislation. The database is segmented by country and provides not only data and metadata but also reports, country profiles, river basin profiles, regional analyses, maps, tables, spatial data, guidelines and other tools on concrete topics such as dams, irrigated crop calendars and reuse of wastewater.

FAO AQUASTAT offers information on water resources, use, management and related policies and legislation, while FAO FISHSTAT provides data on the status and trends of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Left: ©Milos Prelevic/Unsplash ; Right: ©Amadej T

3.  China produces and exports more fish than any other country.


China is not only by far the top producing country for both capture fisheries and aquaculture production, but also the country with the most fish exports. Overall, Asian countries represent about 90 percent of world aquaculture production with India, Indonesia and Viet Nam among other top producers. China is also the third top fish importer for its domestic consumption and processing industry. The data on fisheries and aquaculture (production, trade, consumption, employment and fleet) in the FAO FISHSTAT database covers more than 240 countries from 1950. This data on the status and trends of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors are key to sound policy-making, as well as to assessing and tracking the performance of responsible fisheries and aquaculture management.

4.   More than 20 percent of cereals and pulses are lost during storage in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa and central and southern Asia.

Source: Food loss and food waste database

The Food Loss and Waste database is the largest online collection of data from scientific literature review and FAOSTAT on how food is lost or wasted. The database allows users to filter food loss and waste information by year, country, commodity, stage of the value chain and activity. Narrowing down global food loss and waste estimates to the commodity, country and stage level will vastly improve our knowledge of the food loss problem and present opportunities for intervention, an important step in achieving SDG indicator (12.3.1) of halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along the supply chain. Improved data will allow FAO and its stakeholders to better focus technical assistance to countries to help achieve this target

5. In 2016-2017, females aged 18 and over living in Lao People's Democratic Republic consumed an average of 180 grams of vegetables and vegetable products per day, accounting for about 16 percent of their total food consumption.

Source: FAO/WHO Global Individual Food consumption data tool (FAO/WHO GIFT)

To understand what people of different ages and sexes eat and drink in countries around the world, you can visit the FAO/WHO Global Individual Food consumption data tool. This platform presents food consumption data, at the individual level, from different regions of the world. Collected through both large nationwide surveys and small-scale surveys, the data provides important food-based indicators for food consumption, nutrition and food safety. This tool aims to support policy makers, programme planners, NGO staff and other stakeholders in taking informed decisions on the topics of nutrition, agriculture and food safety at country, regional and global levels.

Collecting and analysing information has always been part of FAO’s mission, and it is a vital step in creating a world without hunger. ©Mr.Whiskey/

Food and agriculture are fundamentals for human lives. Getting those right sets the foundation for a healthier, more sustainable and more equitable future. Without reliable information to ground decisions and public programmes, efforts can fall short or simply be ineffective. FAO strives to make the information it collects and analyses more available and useful for individuals and governments alike. Adopting an open data policy is just the latest step in this direction and is an integral piece in ensuring that all people have access to the information (SDG 9) and education (SDG 4) they need for a better world.  

*This story is an update of one first published on 16 March 2020.

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The Open Data policy applies to all the FAO databases below: