What is the most valuable crop per hectare?

Pulled up a bit of data today from the FAO statistical database while trying to find data on the trends in Nigeria’s food production. I noticed that they had the value of each crop produced and the amount of land used to grow that crop. Which means we can calculate a “value per hectare” for each crop. Remember, I have previously argued that we should be trying to grow the most valuable things not necessarily what we import. It should be noted that this value per hectare does not take costs into account and also does not deduct post harvest losses. Still it is some useful information on how valuable each crop is.

So, what does the data look like?

Vegetables are apparently the most valuable thing before taking costs and post harvest losses into account. If you are a policy maker you can already see the potential impact of dealing with the post harvest losses issue. There are other surprises on the list too.

If we restrict the crops to just those we use a lot of land for, which I define as crops that we use at least one million hectares of land to grow then…

If you are wondering why yams and cassava are high on the list it is because our yields with those crops are decent. In terms of the “should we grow rice” question we see that rice isn’t really high on the list. Rice is actually less valuable that maize for instance. Of course if yields change then the story changes.

There are many other issues of course. The most valuable thing to grow in one area may not be the most valuable thing in another area. The data here is just an average. But it should leave room for though. If we could grow maize, that according to this data is more valuable, should we really be trying to grow rice? Should we instead be trying to grow maize for export and then just import cheaper rice?

Then again this data is from 2016 and things may have changed significantly since then. But if things have changed and keep changing then how do we decide what the most valuable thing is?