Latvia is a low plain area, with, according to Koeppens classification, a cold type climate.
Arable land and permanent crops cover 1.8 million ha; permanent pastures cover 0.8 million ha, and forests are on 2.9 million ha. The main crops include cereals, potatoes, sugar beet and vegetables.
Average daily availability of calories per caput in 1995-97 was 2 899.
The labour force participation ratio of women to men in 1998 was 1%.
Agricultural exports include food items (e.g. tomato juice), timber and timber products.
National agricultural policy
EU accession remains Latvias top priority. Trade restrictions in agriculture have been gradually removed, especially for sugar, cereals and cereal-based products. Current support programmes are geared towards preparing agricultural structures for integration into the EU through improving productivity and marketing, providing credit guarantee and diversifying the rural economy. Progress has been made in adopting and implementing veterinary and plant health legislation. Latvia is a member of EPPO. In 1999 Latvia joined WTO.
In 1998, after restitution and considerable efforts to privatize, 95% of farmlands belonged or were in use of individual families (average 24 ha) and 3.8% by private companies. The delays in the registration of ownership rights have limited the development of a land market and of structural adjustments.
The transformation of large collective and state farms into smaller private units was not supported by adequate managerial skills and understanding of the market on the part of the new owners, who resolved to lease their land to more knowledgeable farmers or to practice subsistence farming.
The World Bank approved a Rural Development Project (US$ 11 million) in 1998 to provide loans for small businesses in rural areas, in order to support diversification of the rural economy and strengthen the rural finance system.
State agro-service enterprises covering agricultural machinery, chemicals, land reclamation, construction and other services have been privatized. Prices for fertilizers, seeds, pesticides and energy increased significantly, which, combined with lack of liquidity, caused a significant decline in their use.
Latvia has a 1993 Law on the Protection of Plant Varieties, which is in line with UPOV rules, but Latvia is not yet a member of UPOV. Breeding activity has been reported at state plant breeding stations.
Seed certification and control
The authority responsible for seed certification is the National Plant Variety Council. Latvia has laboratories accredited to ISTA.
Seven institutes and stations hold a total of 22 species and 8 272 accessions.