Statistics in agriculture

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 10:12:59 +0000


By Eustarkio Kazonga



y previous article in The World of Statistics column focused on the uses of statistics in politics such as campaigns, analysis of election results, referendum and political debates. This article focuses on the use of statistics in agriculture.

Agriculture is defined as the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products. It is clear that agriculture is the main base of our daily life. All the things, directly or indirectly, depend on agriculture in Zambia and the world as a whole.

It is a big sector of life. The agricultural sector is divided into four main sub-sectors, namely: crops; livestock; fisheries and aquaculture; and forestry. Agriculture statistics is of prime importance as far as the agriculture industry is concerned. For example, agriculture statistics ascertain the crop production and productivity, crop yield, qualities of the crops produced, and quantities of inputs used.

Agricultural statistics are in two general groups: (i) the structure of agriculture in a country, which includes agricultural holding by distribution, size, tenure, land use, means of production and labour force. (ii) annual agricultural activities which includes crop and livestock production, trade and prices of agricultural products and labour force information.

Uses of Statistics in Agriculture

The following is a profile of some of the uses of statistics in agriculture in the context of the definition given above.

Crop production

Crop production furnishes information about the different operations and the different methods which can be adopted for improving the crop output.

Agriculture industry makes up the major segment of our economy. The entire population of our country in some way or the other depends on agriculture. Agriculture statistics in such also provide information about the employment it provides to the innumerable individuals. For example, it is estimated that over 1.5 million households are primarily engaged in agriculture, specifically in the crops, livestock and fisheries sub-sector. The small and medium scale sector contributes significantly to national food security. It is reported that over 80% of maize production in Zambia is from the small and medium scale sector. Approximately 58% (42 million hectares) of the land in Zambia is of medium to high crop production potential

Statistics helps to compare the different yields of crops, quality check of crops compared to the quality of crops produced in other countries.

It furnishes a rough outline of the incidence of various operations with regard to the Agriculture industry.  Agricultural statistics covers rainfall statistics, area statistics comprising the data on land use, area and production and yield statistics of various crops produced in the country.

Small-scale farmers use statistics to quantify their production and productivity levels. They refer to the number of Canter Truck loads, Scotch Cart loads, number of bags sold, size of land planted and amounts of inputs used such as seed and fertiliser

Core Crop production of wheat, maize, cassava, rice, sorghum, millet, sugar cane, soya beans and cotton include area planted and harvest, yield and production, amounts in storage, area of cropland irrigated, producer and consumer prices, and amounts utilised for own consumption.


In the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP), the livestock disease incidence reduced from 43.1 percent in 2007 to 2.8 percent in 2009. Cattle population also increased from 2,799,965 in 2006 to an estimated 3,038,000 herds in 2009. Wealth in some Zambian communities is determined by the livestock numbers such as cattle, goats sheep, pigs and chickens. Statistics that are required for these livestock items include: (i) inventory and annual births. (ii) production of products such as meat, milk, eggs, and wool. (iii) net trade or imports and exports. (iv) producer and consumer prices.

The core livestock items include cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and poultry because they are major sources of food supply and agricultural income worldwide.  Increased demand for livestock increases need for feed production, sometimes in direct competition with food production.  Livestock also produce methane, can cause water pollutants and pose disease risks.

The main thrust of the livestock sub–sector during the Fifth National Development Plan period was to control livestock diseases of a trans-boundary and epidemic nature such as Contagious Bovine Pleura-Pneumonia (CBPP), East Coast Fever (ECF) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Measures put in place to combat livestock diseases included vaccination and immunization campaigns, livestock movement restrictions, target placement and aerial spraying. As a result, the disease incidence reduced from 43.1 percent in 2007 to 2.8 percent in 2009. All these require statistics in order to be determined.

The other areas of emphasis were re-stocking, stocking and increasing overall production and productivity and improved management of livestock and livestock products, especially in the traditional sector. Cattle population increased from 2,799,965 herds in 2006 to 3,038,000 herds in 2009. In particular, there has been a rapid expansion in smallholder dairy. Increases in other livestock species such as pigs and sheep were also recorded while goat population significantly declined due to increased demand.

Agricultural statistics are needed to provide information used to monitor trends and estimate future prospects for agricultural commodity markets which can assist in setting policies such as price supports, where the price of a commodity is artificially maintained by government action to stabilize the economy, or tariffs, a fee charged by governments on particular goods that are either imported or exported.


Fish production under capture can be measured. For example this increased from 65,927 Mt in 2005 to 84,716 Mt in 2009. An increase by 50.8 percent in fish production under aquaculture was also recorded to 8,127 Mt in 2009. “The sub-sector showed remarkable growth during the Fifth National Development Plan period 2006-2010. Fish production under capture fisheries increased from 65,927 Mt in 2005 to 84,716 Mt in 2009. Kapenta production increased by 25.7 percent over the same period from 6,251 Mt in 2005 to 8,554 Mt in 2009. An increase in fish production under aquaculture was also recorded from 5,125 Mt in 2005 to 8,127 Mt in 2009. Currently, the fisheries sub-sector’s contribution to the Growth Domestic Product (GDP) is only about 3.2 percent.” Statistics in this case is used to compare and monitor fish production and the contribution it made to the GDP

National Food Balance Sheet (NFBS)

The National Food Balance Sheets present a comprehensive picture of the pattern of a country’s food supply during a specified reference period. The total quantity of foodstuffs produced in a country added to the total quantity imported and adjusted to any change in stocks that may have occurred since the beginning of the reference period gives the supply available during that period. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has given considerable importance to furthering the development of food balance sheets, reflecting their usefulness in analysing the food situation at the level of individual countries. The NFBS includes total available, total requirements i.e. human consumption and industrial requirements, and then surplus/deficit is calculated.

The NFBS provides details on the utilisation side makes a distinction between the quantities exported, fed to livestock, used for seed, processed for food use and non-food uses, lost during storage and transportation, and food supplies available for human consumption at the retail level, i.e. as the food leaves the retail shop or otherwise enters the household.

For the government, the National Food Balance Sheet (NFBS) is one of the most important planning tools used at beginning of marketing season as it provides market outlook in terms of supply and demand of staple food crops, forms the basis for public and private sector planning for agriculture marketing. In case of a deficit, government can quickly embark on the necessary measures for addressing the problem.

Damage to crops

The 2016/17 agricultural season has experienced an unprecedented problems of army worms, stock bora and red locusts in a number of maize fields. The extent of damage requires use of statistics in terms of number of farmers affected, and hectarage affected by the damages. This in turn will be able to assist in determining the impact on the expected production estimates.

Target Setting

Targets in agriculture can be set, monitored and evaluated using statistics. For example government may set the following targets: (i) Attainment of food security for the majority of households with at least 90 percent of population being food secure by 2017. (ii) Agriculture’s contribution to total foreign exchange earnings will increase from the current 3-5% to 10-20% by 2017. (iv) Overall agricultural contribution to GDP will rise from the current 18-20% to 30% by 2015.  (iii) Increase in the number of beneficiaries under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).

Crop Forecast

Survey (CFS)

The Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Statistical Office (CSO) work together in conducting Crop Forecast Surveys every year. The purpose of CFS is to collect information on anticipated area, production, and sales of major crops. uses of information: assessment of expected food security situation at national level, asses performance of major cash crops facilitate trend analysis, computing agriculture’s contribution to GDP, scope and coverage, survey covers all districts in the country, coverage in district based on a statistical sample. The questionnaire used for data collection includes tillage methods, expected production, use of agricultural inputs, area planted to individual crops and expected sales.


Forestry statistics are a collection of forestry related statistical data especially with reference to the production, consumption, spatial distribution, trade, imports, exports and development of wood and non-wood forest resources in particular locations. The use of statistics in forestry research is very crucial starting from the data collection, analysis, and interpretation. In forestry science, sampling techniques are used to estimate the abundance of one or more forest resources for effective results in forestry research and management. The state of forest sector statistics is sometimes uncoordinated and thus not effective. A general apathy still exists with respect to a conscious and systematic collection of forestry statistics.


Agricultural producers and associated private sector businesses that support agricultural production need appropriate statistics in order to decide on the proper actions to take to make the most of their resources and make good business decisions. Statistical information on crop conditions, production, inventories and prices can help determine what should be planted, breeding and feeding decisions and marketing focus. Furthermore, agricultural support businesses including dealers, processors, warehouses, and transportation companies need statistical information to make operational decisions regarding the purchasing and handling of agricultural commodities.

For example, what products to stock in what quantity such as seeds, fertiliser, and equipment as well as tracking agricultural products ready for processing, transport and export. It is, therefore, clear that statistics are used in agriculture in all the sub-sectors of crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry. It is, therefore, clear that statistics and statistical literacy are used in agriculture in all the sub-sectors of crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry.


Join me again next week as my next article in The World of Statistics will focus on the use of statistics in Education.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button