Eritrea - Agriculture

Eritrea has 391,000 ha (966,000 acres) of arable land and 2,000 ha (4,900 acres) under permanent crops. Three-quarters of Eritrea's people are subsistence farmers dependent on unreliable rainfall to feed families that average seven children. Although these farmers have experienced relative peace and good harvests since May 1991, food production has not been able to keep pace with a rapidly expanding population. Harvests have been variable due to rainfall variations and pest infestations. The present government dissolved the former Ethiopian military regime's marketing board and reinstituted private markets for agricultural products. Principal crops in 1999 included sorghum, 150,000 tons; millet, 30,000 tons; barley, 40,000 tons; wheat, 15,000 tons. Legumes, vegetables, fruits, sesame, and linseed are also grown. War, drought, deforestation, and erosion caused about 70–80% of the population to become dependent on food aid. Agricultural output, however, increased slightly during the 1990s, due to the ending of the war, favorable weather, and a newly developed seed and fertilizer distribution system. The army is involved in agricultural restoration, evidence of the government's commitment to agricultural reform.

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