About 30–35% of Turkmenistan is considered arable, but only3.6% was under cultivation in 1998. Almost all the sown agricultural land is under irrigation. Yields are relatively low because of poor water usage, salinization, inefficient irrigation, and overdevelopment of cotton cultivation. In 2001, agriculture engaged 48% of the economically active population. Agriculture accounts for about 27% of GDP.
Cotton is the main crop, with production on the Mary and Tejen oases and along the Amu Dar'ya. Estimated cotton production for 2001/02 was 185,000 tons, up from 137,000 tons in 1996. Lack of machinery had caused significant portions of the cotton crop to go unharvested. Wheat also is cultivated to avoid dependency on unstable cotton export earnings. In 1999, estimated production was 1,506,000 tons. Citrus fruit, dates, figs, grapes, pomegranates, olives, and sugarcane are grown in irrigated groves and fields in the southwest. Sesame, pistachios, and oilseeds are other important export crops.