Agricultural Economist David Widmar recently tackled the topic of which crops globally are most reliant on agricultural trade in an Agricultural Economic Insights blog. Widmar converted global imports data from the USDA into an acre equivalent and then calculated the share of a crop’s annual harvested acres comprised by imports. The results can be found in the figure below. According to this measure, soybeans is most reliant on trade with imports equaling 43 percent of the world’s harvested acres. Trade also plays a significant role for wheat as imports account for 24 percent of its harvested acres. World imports of Nebraska’s largest crop, corn, accounted for less than 15 percent of the world’s harvested acres.
Widmar calculated that production from 19 percent of the world’s harvested crop acres were shipped as imports in 2018/19, a percentage has grown over time. In the early 1960’s, 10-12 percent of the world’s harvested acres went for trade, rising to 15 percent in the 1980’s. The percentage fell to 12 percent in the 1990s before beginning to climb to its present level. As a result, world agriculture is more reliant on trade now than anytime previously.