Agriculture in Greece suffers not only from natural limitations, such as poor soils and droughts, but also from soil erosion, lack of fertilizers, and insufficient capital investment. The total agricultural workforce was 794,000 people in 1999.
About 30% of the land area is cultivable, and it supports over half of the population. Of the land under cultivation in 1998, about 72% was planted in seasonal crops, and 28% in orchards and vineyards. About 36% of the agricultural land was irrigated in 1998. Although agriculture accounts for 20% of the work force, its role in the economy is declining; in 2000 agriculture accounted for 9% of GDP, down from 25% in the 1950s.
In recent decades, Greek agriculture has been characterized by an increasing diversification of fruit crops for export. Agricultural production of principal crops in 1999 was estimated as follows (in thousands of tons): sugar beets, 2,350; tomatoes, 2,060; wheat, 1,900; corn, 1,900; oranges, 900; peaches and nectarines, 500; olive oil, 378; cotton, 384; barley, 414; apples, 360; and tobacco, 126.
Progress has been made toward modernization in machinery and cultivation techniques. Agricultural products, including processed foods, beverages, and tobacco, make up one-third of total exports. To expand agricultural production and encourage farm prosperity, the government exempts agricultural income from most taxes, extends liberal farm credits, and subsidizes agriculture. It also operates a service by which individual growers or cooperatives may hire heavy farm equipment at low prices, encourages the development of industries that use farm products, provides educational programs, and has sought to halt the trend toward ever-smaller farm holdings. More than 241,000 tractors, 5,500 harvester-threshers, and 14,600 milking machines were in use in 1998.