Copra (dried coconut) is the main cash crop , though its output has been falling. There was a 16 percent fall in 1996 as a result of El Niño rains, but this was followed by an 11 percent fall in 1997. The poor transport links between the islands, atolls, and Majuro is a problem, as the crop has to come to the capital for processing and packaging before exportation. The price earned by growers has fallen (the price halved between 1994 and 1997), reducing their incentive to produce, but it was still above the world price due to a government subsidy . The long-term problem is that the coconut trees are declining in productivity as they become older and, with lower prices, the growers have little incentive to replace the tree stock. The lack of private land titles and a land market is a further problem. Without land as collateral, farmers find it difficult to raise loans to finance replanting.
Fish exports appear substantial and fast-growing, but much of the catch is in fact caught by Chinese and Japanese vessels, taken to land, and then shipped from the islands in refrigerated cargo boats. The main benefits to the
Food and livestock production has grown modestly in the period from 1993 to 1997 (by about 3.5 percent annually), basically reflecting the increase in the population. However, production is not encouraged due to the low prices of imported food as compared with domestic output. A total of 60 percent of caloric intake comes from imports. Local food producers are hampered by poor transportation, which raises the cost of their products. The main food crops are bananas, breadfruit (a large fruit with edible pulp and seeds), pandanus (a fruit with edible nuts), taro (a starchy root crop similar to the potato), vegetables, and tropical fruits. Livestock is mostly poultry and pigs, with some cattle.