Since independence, the dominant position of the petroleum sector has greatly reduced the role of agriculture. Only 1.8% of the total land area is estimated to be under cultivation, and agriculture contributes only about 8% of the GDP on the average. In 2001, agricultural imports by Gabon accounted for nearly 18% of all imports. Gabon relies heavily on other African states and Europe for much of its food and other agricultural needs. Until World War II (1939–45), agriculture was confined primarily to subsistence farming and the cultivation of such crops as manioc, bananas, corn, rice, taro, and yams. Since independence there has been an intensive effort to diversify and increase agricultural production. Experimental stations and demonstration farms have been set up, and cooperatives have been established by consolidating rural communities. However, agriculture received low priority until the 1976–81 development plan, and laborers prefer to seek employment in urban areas. The development of agriculture and small business has been hindered by a lack of international competition. Another problem is lack of transportation to markets.
In 1999, Gabon produced about 225,000 tons of cassava, 150,000 tons of yams, 61,000 tons of other roots and tubers, 280,000 tons of plantains, 35,000 tons of vegetables, and 31,000 tons of corn. Sugarcane production was about 173,000 tons. Cocoa is the most important cash crop; production in 1999 was 1,000 tons.
A state-owned 7,500-hectare (18,500-acre) palm oil plantation near Lambaréné began production in 1986. Palm oil production was 6,000 tons in 1999. A 4,300-hectare (10,600-acre) rubber project was being developed; rubber production in 1999 was 11,000 tons.