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 imported.
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.