Assessing and addressing the global state of food production data scarcity

Endalkachew Abebe Kebede, Hanan Abou Ali, Tyler Clavelle, Halley E. Froehlich, Jessica A. Gephart, Sarah Hartman, Mario Herrero, Hannah Kerner, Piyush Mehta, Catherine Nakalembe, Deepak K. Ray, Stefan Siebert, Philip Thornton, Kyle Frankel Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Food production data — such as crop, livestock, aquaculture and fisheries statistics — are critical to achieving multiple sustainable development goals. However, the lack of reliable, regularly collected, accessible, usable and spatially disaggregated statistics limits an accurate picture of the state of food production in many countries and prevents the implementation of effective food system interventions. In this Review, we take stock of national and international food production data to understand its availability and limitations. Across databases, there is substantial global variation in data timeliness, granularity (both spatially and by food category) and transparency. Data scarcity challenges are most pronounced for livestock and aquatic food production. These challenges are largely concentrated in Central America, the Middle East and Africa owing to a combination of inconsistent census implementation and a global reliance on self-reporting. Because data scarcity is the result of technical, institutional and political obstacles, solutions must include technological and policy innovations. Fusing traditional and emerging data-gathering techniques with coordinated governance and dedicated long-term financing will be key to overcoming current obstacles to sustained, up-to-date and accurate food production data collection, foundational in promoting and monitoring progress towards healthier and more sustainable food systems worldwide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-311
Number of pages17
JournalNature Reviews Earth and Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024

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