With three-quarters of its labor force employed in agriculture, Lithuania was a predominantly agricultural economy in 1940. Half a century later, agriculture still occupied a special role in the Lithuanian economy, providing about a quarter of jobs and about half the national product. By 1990, Lithuania reached roughly one-fourth of the U.S. labor productivity in agriculture. Generally, Lithuanian agricultural production costs were 2 to 3 times higher than in Western countries at the end of the communist era.
Lithuanian agriculture remains inefficient by Western standards. Most small farmers do not have the capital or resources to acquire new equipment, and few utilize new forms of fertilizer and soil-management techniques. In 1998, agricultural production decreased by 4.3 percent, and in 1999, it decreased by 13.6 percent. However, increasing competition and access to new technology have slowly increased the efficiency of some farms (mainly the larger operations). In 2000, Lithuania had 67,800 family farms and 1,244 corporate-owned farms. Since 1990, about 2,000 family farms have gone out-of-business as unprofitable operations have been unable to survive the free market economy. Currently, the nation loses about 0.03-0.04 percent of its agricultural land each year. Agricultural workers are among the lowest paid laborers in Lithuania. In 2000, on average they only earned US$177 per month while the national average monthly wage was US$267.
About 3.37 million hectares are used for agriculture, and the average farm size is 12.6 hectares. In 1998, agricultural exports had a total value of US$564.1 million while imports totaled US$697.6 million. The main exports were butter, cheese, fish, milk, and pet food. Almost 80 percent of agricultural exports go to Russia. The main imports include processed foods and fruits. The main supplier of agricultural imports is the EU with some 52 percent of imports. The largest crops were potatoes at 1.7 million metric tons, sugar beets at 890,000 metric tons, and wheat at 837,000 metric tons. The main livestock products are beef and veal, chicken, lamb, pork, and horse.