In 2001, agriculture accounted for 5% of the GDP, engaging8.8% of the
economically active population. Venezuela continues to rely heavily on food and
agricultural imports. Despite abundant resources favorable to agricultural
production, 70% of cereals and 98% of oilseeds consumed in Venezuela are
Venezuela does not have the rich soil of many other Latin American countries.
In 1998, 3,490,000 hectares (8,624,000 acres), or 4% of the total land area,
were used for temporary or permanent crops. The most highly developed
agricultural region is the basin of Lake Valencia, west of Caracas and inland
from Puerto Cabello. The principal crop of this area is coffee. Before oil came
to dominate the economy, coffee accounted for 40–60% of all income from exports.
The main field crops are sugarcane, rice, corn, and sorghum, and the chief
fruits are bananas, plantains, oranges, coconuts, and mangoes. The most
important agricultural items for industrial use are cotton, tobacco, and sisal.
Two varieties of tobacco grow in Venezuela, black and Virginia blond; the latter
is used for the most part to make certain popular brands of US cigarettes under
license. Sisal is grown and widely used to make cordage and bags for sacking
grains and coffee. Thin strings of the fiber are also employed in hammocks,
household bags, doormats, hats, and sandals. Agricultural production in 1999 (in
tons) included sugarcane, 7,080,000; bananas, 1,000,000; corn, 1,024,000; rice,
670,000; sorghum, 402,000; plantains, 578,000; oranges, 332,000; potatoes,
352,000; cotton, 12,000; tobacco, 11,000; sisal, 15,000; and tomatoes, 171,000.
Under an agrarian reform law of 1960, three kinds of land are subject to
expropriation by the government: uncultivated lands; lands worked indirectly
through renters, sharecroppers, and other intermediaries; and lands suitable for
cultivation that are being devoted to livestock raising. Compensation is paid
for expropriated lands. Between 1960 and 1980, 8,467,000 hectares (20,922,295
acres) of land were distributed to 155,200 farming families who had never
previously owned property. However, the land reform was adversely affected by
mass migration of rural people to the cities.