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Economy, agriculture and food security

Before the outbreak of civil war, agriculture accounted for about 40 percent of GDP and Liberia had been a producer and exporter of basic products - primarily raw timber and rubber. The rubber industry generated over US$100 million export earnings annually. By the end of 1996, real GDP was as low as 10 percent of its pre-war level. However, from 1997 it increased, reflecting a post-war surge in rice, timber and rubber production, and in 2002, reached US$442 million. Nonetheless, in 2004, a still unsettled domestic security situation was slowing the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of the country. In 2000, agriculture and forestry contributed over 90 percent of export earnings, mainly from rubber, timber, cocoa and coffee.

Agricultural activities are still considerably reduced and food insecurity is worsening, as the areas considered to be the "food basket" of Liberia are still inaccessible. Rice production in 1995 was only 23 percent of the pre-civil war level. Cassava production has also been falling, possibly by as much as 50 percent. Low productivity of land and labour, shifting cultivation and low livestock production remain the main characteristics of traditional farming in Liberia. Rainfed agriculture is the predominant system. Use of water control technology is exceptional and consists mainly of unregulated manual irrigation, using watering cans.

Liberia is far from being food self-sufficient, with net cereal imports and food aid as a percent of total consumption being 44.1 percent for the period 1998-2000. The variation in domestic cereal production between 1992-2001 (average percent variation from mean) was 44.5 percent.


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