Problems in the agriculture sector arise from poor transport, inadequate storage, and the inability of farmers to provide legal evidence of land ownership as collateral for loans. Despite these difficulties, agriculture has expanded and developed since the 1994 CFA franc de-valuation. In 1997 a project was started to rejuvenate the collective farms, costing US$5 million and employing 2000 people over 5 years. The project will be run by the private sector , with foreign management of some farms.
The oil palm is the most important tree crop in the south, and the oil it produces has a wide variety of uses in foodstuffs (especially margarine) and in industry (especially in soaps). Output in the 1970s and 1980s, however, fell due to drought, the overvalued franc, and low world prices. In 2000 a pilot project aimed to raise yields of coffee, cocoa, ground nuts (such as peanuts), and kerite (shea nuts), all grown in the south.
Cotton, the main export, is normally grown in the north. Higher producer prices after the 1994 devaluation boosted output to 15,000 metric tons of lint (unprocessed cotton fiber) in the 1997-98 season, though it fell again in the 1998-99 season due to smaller yields and a financial scandal in Sonapra (the cotton parastatal ). The cotton price slump in 1999 means Sonapra might not be able to find growers at current prices and might face being sold to the private sector.
Food and livestock production accounts for 48 percent of the total agricultural output. Smallholders produce for domestic and regional markets. Maize and cassava are grown in the south and sorghum, millet, and yams in the drier north. Rice production is expanding rapidly and reached 30,900 metric tons in the 1998-99 season with help from a UN-backed program. Production was encouraged by Centre d'Action Regionale pour le Development Rural (Center of Regional Action for Rural Development), a government body set up to develop the rural economy.
In 1998 there were 1.3 million cattle, 6 million sheep, 1.1 million goats, and 5 million pigs in Benin. Cattle are kept mainly in the north, but there have been attempts to move production to the south. Livestock output meets 60 percent of the national requirements. Production is currently more competitive due to the 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc. There is a long-term plan for the country to be self-sufficient in dairy products (as of 2001 Benin imports 8,000 metric tons of dairy products each year).
The Office Nationale du Bois was established 1983 to develop timber production and to stop deforestation. Plantations, mainly teak, covered 38,000 hectares in 1989 and further planting is planned. The fish catch is mainly from inland waters, rivers, and lagoons. Fish production is currently 12,000 metric tons per year, which meets 50 percent of domestic consumption.