Agriculture was the foundation of the economy in Ivory Coast and its main source of growth. In 1987 the agricultural sector contributed 35 percent of the country's GDP and 66 percent of its export revenues, provided employment for about two-thirds of the national work force, and generated substantial revenues despite the drop in coffee and cocoa prices. From 1965 to 1980, agricultural GDP grew by an average 4.6 percent per year. Growth of agricultural GDP from coffee, cocoa, and timber production, which totaled nearly 50 percent of Ivory Coast's export revenues, averaged 7 percent a year from 1965 to 1980.
Contributing to this impressive performance were an abundance of fertile land, cheap labor, the collective efforts of many farmers cultivating small plots, relatively favorable commodity prices, and a stable political environment.
Success in the 1960s and 1970s overshadowed major problems developing in the agricultural sector. By the late 1980s, despite efforts to diversify its crops, 55 percent of Ivory Coast's export earnings still came from cocoa and coffee. Moreover, highly volatile world markets for both commodities caused sharp fluctuations in government revenues and made development planning difficult. In addition, Ivory Coast was not yet self-sufficient in food production and imported substantial quantities of rice, wheat, fish, and red meat. Finally, despite an enormous increase in the volume of agricultural output since independence, there was little improvement in agricultural productivity. To achieve higher production figures, traditional farmers using traditional technologies simply cleared more and more land.