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Agriculture - smaller role in Venezuela


Agriculture of Venezuela
Agriculture of Venezuela

Agriculture plays a much smaller role in Venezuela’s economy than in the economies of other South American countries. Before the discovery of oil, agriculture provided the country’s major exports, including coffee, cacao, cattle, and hides. Oil production, however, led to years of neglect of the agricultural sector, and by the 1950s the country was importing more than one-third of its food. In 1960 the government passed the Agrarian Reform Law, which was aimed at expanding and diversifying agricultural production. For a time food production grew rapidly, but by the mid-1970s rapid population growth outpaced the growth in agricultural production. In addition, much of the best farmland remained in the hands of large landowners and often lay idle, while those who need to earn a living from the land worked the poorer farmland.

Today, Venezuela still must import much of its food. The United States is a major supplier.

Much of the best farmland in Venezuela is concentrated in the hands of a few large landowners, while those who need to earn a living from the land are left with poorer land. The lack of arable land for the poor has led to heavy migration from rural areas to the cities. In 2005 Venezuela’s president initiated plans to increase food production by breaking up the large estates. The first step was to review land use. Ranchers objected to inspections of their estates and declared the measures unconstitutional. Agriculture, including forestry and fishing, employed 11 percent of the workforce; in 2003 it contributed 5 percent of the GDP.

The principal crops include sugarcane; fruits such as bananas, plantains, and oranges; maize; rice; and cassava. Livestock raising is carried on chiefly on the Llanos and east of Lake Maracaibo.

In 2005, 52 percent of Venezuela was forested. However, the country’s timber industry is underdeveloped largely because of the inaccessibility of the forest areas. Timber is used mainly as fuel and by the building, furniture manufacturing, and paper industries. The rich fishery resources of Venezuela include a wide variety of marine life. The fish catch in 2007 was 482,210 metric tons.

The country’s fish catch includes tuna, sardines, herrings, shrimp, and shellfish. Important pearl fisheries are located off Margarita Island. "Venezuela" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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