Coffee is still Colombia’s principal crop, although Colombia was recently surpassed by Vietnam as the second largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil. Colombia remains the world’s leading producer of mild coffee, but in the mid-1990s petroleum became the country’s largest source of foreign income. In the mid-1970s coffee accounted for 80 percent of Colombia’s export earnings; by the early 2000s coffee brought in less than 10 percent of export earnings. High production costs and low international prices combined to reduce the earnings of Colombian coffee growers.
Coffee is cultivated chiefly on mountain slopes from about 900 to 1,800 m (about 3,000 to 6,000 ft) above sea level, principally in the departments of Caldas, Antioquia, Cundinamarca, Norte de Santander, Tolima, and Santander. More than 150,000 mainly small coffee plantations extend over approximately 1 million hectares (approximately 2.5 million acres). Coffee output totaled 710,000 metric tons in 2007, with most of the exported coffee going to the United States.While coffee is Colombia’s leading agricultural product, the country’s diverse climate and topography permit cultivation of a wide variety of other crops. Annual production of principal cash crops in addition to coffee includes cacao beans (37,000 metric tons), sugarcane (40 million), tobacco (37,000), cotton (130,000), bananas, and cut flowers.
Chief food crops are rice (2.3 million), cassava (2.1 million), potatoes (1.9 million), and plantains. Plants producing pita, sisal, and hemp fibers, used in the manufacture of cordage and coarse sacking material, are also cultivated.
The livestock included cattle, hogs, sheep, and horses. The production of drug-related crops took on significant proportions starting in the 1970s with the cultivation of marijuana. Although Colombia has become notorious for its cocaine supply, the processing of coca leaves was more significant than actual coca plant cultivation in the country until the mid-1990s. As the supply of coca, primarily from Peru and Bolivia, was disrupted, coca growing in Colombia increased significantly.
Opium poppies, used to make heroin, also became a significant source of revenue despite government efforts to stop their cultivation. It was estimated that from 1980 to 1995 the value of illegal drug exports amounted to almost half the value of Colombia’s legal exports. "Colombia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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