What are agricultural production and productivity

Germany in data

Jörg Baten

Prof. Dr., Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen - International comparisons

Herman J. de Jong

Prof. Dr., Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen - International Comparisons

Agricultural production per capita shows the increased productivity over time and the simultaneous decrease in the relative size of the agricultural sector.

The indicator for agricultural production per capita can be viewed as a measure of an overall increase in agricultural productivity and the decreasing relative size of this sector in the economy. German employment in agriculture fell from 45 percent in 1880 to less than 10 percent around 1970 and even continued to decline later. The United Kingdom is the most extreme case with only 12 percent in 1880 and 3 percent in 1975. Due to the data situation, two different databases were used. The data for the period up to the Second World War are represented by index values ​​based on the year 1913 (= 100). After the Second World War, the data series refers to an index based on the year 1980 (= 100). It is therefore not possible to compare the index values ​​for these two periods.

Table 4: Agricultural production per capita License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (bpb)
During the 19th century the UK had an extremely stable level of agricultural production. However, due to its rapid population growth, production (per capita) fell rapidly. British society became more and more dependent on American grain and meat, allowing the economy to capitalize on its own international comparative advantages [1] in industry and finance. German agricultural production doubled between 1850 and 1913, which, combined with even faster population growth than the UK, resulted in a 25 percent increase in agricultural production per capita, which can also be seen in France and Italy.

Figure 4: Agricultural production per capita License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (bpb)
German agricultural production per capita decreased considerably during and after the First World War to a level of less than 70 (1913 = 100) and rose again to almost 100 in 1938. For many countries, the interwar period represented an era in which agricultural self-sufficiency began became an important goal.

After the Second World War, West German agricultural production comprised only around 40 percent of the pre-war level of 1938. However, the production volume doubled between 1950 and 1990. Agricultural production (per capita) also doubled, despite the extremely sharp decline in employment in this sector from 22 percent in 1950 to less than 5 percent in the 1980s. (see Tab 4, Fig 4)