About 57% of the total land area is arable, with another 11% utilized as permanent pasture land. Agriculture accounted for 17% of GDP in 2001. As in other former Soviet republics, total agricultural production has dramatically declined since 1990. Although the rate of decline is slowing, yearly declines still prevail. The average annual decline during 1990–2000 was 5.8%. By 1999, the agricultural sector was only producing 47% as much as it had during 1989–91. Production amounts in 1999 included (in 1,000 tons): sugar beets, 13,890; potatoes, 15,405; wheat, 13,476; dry peas, 510; fruit, 1,594; sunflower seeds, 2,750; cabbage, 1,015; grapes, 270; wine, 73; soybeans, 42; and tobacco, 3.
Ukraine's steppe region in the south is possibly the most fertile region in the world. Ukraine's famous humus-rich black soil accounts for one-third of the world's black soil and holds great potential for agricultural production. However, the soil is rapidly losing its fertility due to improper land and crop management. Ukraine typically produced over half of the sugar beets and one-fifth of all grains grown for the former USSR. In addition, two of the largest vegetable-oil research centers in the world are at Odessa and Zaporizhzhya. Agroindustry accounts for one-third of agricultural employment. To some extent, however, agroindustrial development has been hampered by the deteriorating environment as well as a shortage of investment funds due to the aftermath of the nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl. According to estimates, nearly 60,000 hectares (148,250 acres) of arable land in the Chernobyl vicinity are now unavailable for cultivation. Out of 33 million ha (81.5 million acres) of total arable land, more than 17 million ha (42 million acres) are depleted, 10 million ha (24.7 million acres) are eroded, and another 10 million have excessive acidity. Furthermore, 17% of arable land is located in areas where there is risk of drought.