The World’s Largest Cash Crop Ain’t Tomatoes [Infographic]

by . November 7th, 2014

‘Wacky Tobaccky’ reigns as cash crop king.

The war on drugs has been pretty expensive, yet it’s hardly seemed to have put a dent on drug farmer profit margins. Information is Beautiful came up with this groovy infographic that outlines just why so many underground entreps are willing to supply illicit substances.



Researchers used data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and used it to calculate yield per sq. km.

They compared the reports with data from UN World Drug Reports and made comparisons with coca, opium, and marijuana.

Researchers admit “Data on illicit substances is, like the peeps who sell them, more than a bit sketchy.” As the illicit substances are hard to track as accurately as openly traded commodities, there have been some major challenges in creating this infographic.

The figures on coca are based on only the top three coca-producing countries – Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. Quality and prices of illicit substances is wildly variable, and the researchers admit to being forced to make a few assumptions.


  • Fecundity is the actual reproductive rate of an organism or population. In this case, specific cash crops.
  • Rapeseed is where Canola oil comes from. The Rapeseed Association of Canada came up with the name (Canada + ola) so they could avoid the negative connotations of the word “rape”.
  • A similar name change situation has occurred with Kiwifruit. Surprisingly enough, they aren’t native to New Zealand and were originally called “Chinese Gooseberries”. Three guesses where they came from and why that name was a problem.
  • These are classic examples of how branding works.
  • One could surmise how much more value sugarcane would have on the world market without massive maize (corn) subsidies in the United States for the creation of high-fructose corn syrup.
  • The prices for all items make the most sense in the context of the American market. Coca for instance, would have far less value per sq. km if the market were just Colombia than it would if you included The District of Columbia.
  • A popular misconception claims coffee is only second to petroleum and petroleum products as the world’s most traded substance. This is false, and it’s not even the world’s second most traded agricultural product. Coffee (as green beans) comes fourth, after wheat, sugar, and soybeans. It does become a bit more arguable if you count processed coffee beans as part of what gets traded.
  • Cannabis prices are projected to fall along with the now-corroding legal barriers to marijuana use and distribution.
  • A Tonne or metric ton is different from a ton. The tonne is equal to 1000 kilograms; and thus equivalent to around 2 204.6 pounds,  1.10 tons (US) or 0.984 tons (old UK).  As the differences are small, usage rarely matters in colloquial use.
  • Chocolate doesn’t even make the cut.

Love it? Hate it? Have any farming tips for us? Comment below!


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.