Agriculture, the main economic activity, provides nearly half the total value of exports and a large part of domestic food needs. Because the narrow strip of rich, alluvial soil along the coast lies in part below the high-tide mark of the sea and rivers, and because of heavy seasonal rainfall, agricultural expansion requires heavy expenditures for flood control, drainage, and irrigation. About 2.5% of the land is used for temporary and permanent crop production.
Guyana has two sugarcane harvests per year, and there are currently eight sugar mills in operation. About 90% of all cane is grown on land owned or leased by Guysuco, the governmentowned sugar monopoly. Guysuco is managed under contract by the British firm Booker Tate. Independent farmers contribute only about 8% to total cane production. Guyana is not an efficient producer of sugar and cannot compete on the world market; it depends on preferential export markets for its sugar trade. Sugar production in 1999 was 3,000,000 tons, up from the 395,000 tons produced in 1971; sugar accounted for 29% of exports in 1980 and about 22% in 2001. Rice production in 1999 (600,000 tons) has more than doubled since 1991. Agricultural exports in 2001 totaled US $171.7 million. Other crops, grown for domestic consumption, include bananas, citrus, cassava, and yams.