As of 2003, there are only about 174,000 hectares (430 acres) of arable land in East Timor. With generally poor and shallow soil, steep terrain, and an unreliable climate, most farming is at a subsistence level. The farming system is based on slash and burn farming shifting cultivation. In the north and a few fertile areas of the south, maize, cassava, cowpeas, and sweet potatoes are primary crops. Rice is cultivated in lowlands with the help of semi-irrigation and technical irrigation systems. The main harvest for maize occurs from February through April. The main harvest for rice occurs from May through September in the north and from August through November in the south. Other agricultural products include, soybeans, cabbage, mangoes, bananas, vanilla, mung beans, taro (swamp and upland), onions, peanuts, sago, coconuts, and tobacco.
Coffee serves as an important cash crop, with over 60% of the country's organic coffee being produced in the Ermera district. Bobanaro, Oecussi, Viqueque, and Baucau are the most important food producing districts. In 2003, agriculture accounted for about 25% of the GDP.