Liberia - Agriculture
The devastation caused by Liberia's civil war has helped to make agriculture the dominant sector in the economy. That dominance, however, reflects not the strength of the agricultural sector but rather the complete failure of the other sectors. Liberia's agricultural production is primarily aimed toward subsistence—providing enough food for individual farmers to survive. Liberia's main staple food is rice, but the country has low yields despite improvements arising from new varieties. Taylor's government has given high priority importance to the sector. In 1998 the FAO reported that rice and cassava production reached 70 percent and 90 percent of prewar levels respectively, and the IMF estimates indicate good growth in the 2000 harvest.
Rubber is the most important cash crop , though cocoa, coffee, and palm oil are also produced. The U.S.-based Bridgestone company is a major producer in Liberia's rubber sector and owns 30 percent of rubber plantations. Despite falling world prices, rubber production rose to 106,000 tons in 1989 and was high throughout the 1980s, though the coming of war brought desertion of the plantations and production fell to a fifth of its pre-war level. Recovery has been steady, reaching 28,000 tons of production in 1997 with some reports suggesting output is now more than 50,000 tons. Depressed world prices have hampered recovery.
Liberia has large forest reserves, with estimated production of 317,000 cubic meters of commercial production in 1997, and 4.8 million cubic meters consumed as fuelwood. There is considerable possibility for expansion. Some Asian companies involved in the logging operations have been criticized for their poor environmental practices, and it has been suggested that they have been able to ignore environmental considerations because of involvement by key figures in the government, or their relatives, in the companies concerned.