Tajik agriculture relies extensively on irrigation. About 6% of the total area is cropland, although 23% is used for permanent pastures. A network of canals expands agriculture into semidesert areas. Agriculture accounted for 19% of GDP in 2000. During 1990–2000, agricultural output shrank by an annual average of5.8%.
Cotton is the major commercial crop; three irrigated valleys (Vakhsh, Kofarnihon, and Zeravshan) are the sites of most production. As a result of chronic problems with machinery and the lack of spare parts, machine harvesting is declining. The 1999 cotton harvest was 95,000 tons, but less than 10,000 tons were picked by machine
Wheat is the staple grain and is grown mainly in the northern and southern plains. About one-third of the wheat crop is irrigated. In 1999, wheat production was 450,000 tons. Production has been declining in recent years because of lack of machinery and civil war. During the 1996/97 growing season, the government eliminated most of the state order for wheat, legalized contract farming, freed wheat prices, established commodity markets, and privatized 50,000 ha (124,000 acres) of land in order to encourage wheat production. Barley, potatoes, vegetables, and various fruits and melons are widely grown for domestic consumption.
Horticulture has been important since antiquity. Most orchards and vineyards are located in the northern valleys, where apricots, pears, plums, apples, cherries, pomegranates, figs, and nuts are grown.