Agricultural production is the single most important contributor to Yemen's economy, accounting for 20 percent of GDP. The agricultural sector provides approximately 58 percent of the country's employment. The labor-intensive sector is largely underdeveloped and inefficient, as a result of soil erosion, the high cost of credit and land, a lack of investment, and the scarcity of water. Most of the cultivated land is irrigated and dependent on groundwater, but high demand could exhaust water supplies by 2008. Although agricultural output has increased steadily in the past few years, crop yields remain low relative to those produced by comparable countries.
Major agricultural products include fruits, vegetables, and cereals, but production is rarely sufficient to meet domestic demand. As a result, Yemen continues to import most of its food. Yemen also cultivates qat, a mildly narcotic plant indigenous to Africa. Although legal, the government has recently moved to ban its consumption in public offices and on army duty due to economic and social costs associated with those under the influence. It continues to be widely consumed, and future efforts to ban it are unlikely.