Food and drink production is a trivial portion of the economy

One of our regular complaints around here is that people tend not to have a useful sense of proportion. Despite Douglas Adams' injunction that this is something a human cannot have in the face of the size of the universe we're insistent that, at least when designing public policy, it's essential.

Take this from The Guardian:

Food and farming is one of the biggest economic sectors in the world. We are no longer in the 14th century, when as much as 76% of the population worked in agriculture – but farming still employs more than 26% of all workers globally. And that does not include the people who work along the meat supply chain: the slaughterers, packagers, retailers and chefs.

In 2016, the world’s meat production was estimated at 317m metric tons, and that is expected to continue to grow. Figures for the value of the global meat industry vary wildly from $90bn to as much as $741bn.

Although the number of people directly employed by farming is currently less than 2% in the UK, the food chain now includes the agribusiness companies, the retailers, and the entertainment sector. According to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in 2014 the food and drink manufacturing sector contributed £27bn to the economy, and employed 3.8 million people.

We agree that food and drink production is important of course. Without the first we'd be dead and without some forms of the second we'd be unable to be merry. However, we still need to examine that biggest economic sector claim.

Global GDP is of the order of $80 trillion (nominal). Global meat production is therefore under 1% of the economy even at that largest valuation. And 0.1% or so at that lower. The UK's GDP is of the order of £1.8 trillion, meaning that the food and drink manufacturing sector is some 1.3% of our own economic activity.

Again, we insist that these are important things but they're not a large economic sector, certainly not one of the largest, in this modern world. Thus any changes to them at the margin are of marginal importance to that economy as a whole, aren't they?