The sector of an economy making direct use of natural resources. This includes agriculture, forestry and fishing, mining, and extraction of oil and gas. This is contrasted with the secondary sector, producing manufactures and other processed goods, and the tertiary sector, producing services. The primary sector is usually most important in less developed countries, and typically less important in industrial countries.
The manufacturing industries that aggregate, pack, package, purify or process the raw materials close to the primary producers are normally considered part of this sector, especially if the raw material is unsuitable for sale or difficult to transport long distances.
Primary industry is a larger sector in developing countries
A developing country, also known as a less-developed country, is a nation with a low level of material well-being. Since no single definition of the term developing country is recognized internationally, the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries...
; for instance, animal husbandry
Animal husbandry is the agricultural practice of breeding and raising livestock.- History :Animal husbandry has been practiced for thousands of years, since the first domestication of animals....
is more common in Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...
than in Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...
. Mining in 19th century South Wales
South Wales is an area of Wales bordered by England and the Bristol Channel to the east and south, and Mid Wales and West Wales to the north and west. The most densely populated region in the south-west of the United Kingdom, it is home to around 2.1 million people and includes the capital city of...
is a case study of how an economy can come to rely on one form of business.
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...
is unusual among developed countries in the importance of the primary sector, with the logging
Logging is the cutting, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks.In forestry, the term logging is sometimes used in a narrow sense concerning the logistics of moving wood from the stump to somewhere outside the forest, usually a sawmill or a lumber yard...
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...
industries being two of Canada's most important.
In developed countries
A developed country is a country that has a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue...
primary industry becomes more technologically advanced, for instance the mechanization of farming as opposed to hand picking and planting. In more developed economies additional capital is invested in primary means of production. As an example, in the United States corn belt
The Corn Belt is a region of the Midwestern United States where corn has, since the 1850s, been the predominant crop, replacing the native tall grasses. By 1950, 99% of the corn was grown from hybrids. Most corn is fed to livestock, especially hogs and poultry. In recent decades soybeans have...
, combine harvester
The combine harvester, or simply combine, is a machine that harvests grain crops. The name derives from the fact that it combines three separate operations, reaping, threshing, and winnowing, into a single process. Among the crops harvested with a combine are wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn ,...
s pick the corn, and spray systems distribute large amounts of insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...
Herbicides, also commonly known as weedkillers, are pesticides used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic "imitations" of plant...
s and fungicide
Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores. Fungi can cause serious damage in agriculture, resulting in critical losses of yield, quality and profit. Fungicides are used both in agriculture and to fight fungal infections in animals...
s, producing a higher yield than is possible using less capital-intensive techniques.
These technological advances and investment allow the primary sector to require less workforce and, this way, developed countries tend to have a smaller percentage of their workforce involved in primary activities, instead having a higher percentage involved in the secondary and tertiary sectors.
Developed countries are allowed to maintain and develop their primary industries even further due to the excess wealth. For instance, EU subsidies in Europe provide buffers for the fluctuating inflation rates and prices of agricultural produce. This allows developed countries to be able to export their agricultural products at extraordinarily low prices, making them extremely competitive against those of poor or underdeveloped countries that maintain free market policies and low or inexistent tariffs to counter them.
List of countries by agricultural output
Below is a list of countries by agricultural output in 2010. Output is in millions of US$.
Gross world product is the total gross national product of all the countries in the world. This also equals the total gross domestic product. See measures of national income and output for more details...
|| Mainland China
|| European Union
|| United States
|| Early Modern France
- Dwight H. Perkins: Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, Vol. 31, No. 1, China's Developmental Experience (Mar., 1973)
- Cameron: General Economic and Social History
- Historia Económica y Social General, by Maria Inés Barbero, Rubén L. Berenblum, Fernando R. García Molina, Jorge Saborido
- The Nature of Wealth, by Fred Lundgren and Jerome Friemel