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East Timor Agriculture and Fishing Overview
Agriculture and fishing
In East Timor, 70-80 percent of the population is employed in agriculture, which contributes one-fifth of GDP. However, the conditions for the industry are not the best and the country has to import food. The mountainous terrain makes it difficult to cultivate in the central parts, the risk of drought is great and the soil with few exceptions is nutrient poor.
About a third of households are completely dependent on cultivation for their own use and most of them suffer from food shortages periodically.
Maize is traditionally the base food of the East Timorese and is cultivated especially in the mountainous regions where burning is occurring. Cassava, sweet potato and soy are also common crops. At the coasts, where cultivation conditions are more favorable and there is more water, rice cultivation is important. During the 1980s and 1990s, irrigation systems for rice cultivation were expanded.
The main export crop is coffee, but small plantations including coconuts, carnations, vanilla, cinnamon and cocoa are also available. The coffee accounts for around 90 percent of the total export value, if oil and natural gas are not included.
Coffee production managed relatively well from the devastation in 1999, as a lot of coffee is grown up in the mountainous regions. The unrest in 2006, however, led to worse harvests because many coffee farmers were forced to flee their homes. Also the following year the harvest was poor, due to drought and plant plague. Since then, coffee growers have had better times again.
The coffee cultivation was introduced by the Portuguese and during the Indonesian occupation 1975-1999 the military gained monopoly on coffee production. The monopoly began to dissolve during the 1990s and was replaced by a cooperative system, which, even after East Timor's independence, managed some of the sales. Almost all coffee in East Timor is organically grown. Especially the US and Germany are big buyers of the high quality coffee.
Livestock breeding has traditionally been important. The large grassy areas are suitable as pasture. Breeding of cows, goats, pigs, chickens and water buffaloes is most common.
The fish stock is large off the coast and fishing is considered to be one of East Timor's most promising industries. A small fishing industry was built up by the Indonesians and now receives state development grants. Fish and seafood farming also occurs.
It is bad for easily harvested forest and forestry is undeveloped. The Portuguese cut down a lot of forest, but replanting is ongoing. The trade in sandalwood is believed to be able to generate good income in the future. Sweat use is a problem, as it leads to soil degradation.
FACTS - AGRICULTURE
Agriculture's share of GDP
10.4 percent (2017)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
25.6 percent (2016)
East Timor accuses Australia's intelligence service (Asis) of having intercepted East Timorese representatives in connection with the 2004 government negotiations on the allocation of rights to oil and gas revenues in Lake Timor. Australia neither confirms nor denies the charge. East Timor appeals to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to have the 2006 agreement (see Natural Resources and Energy) annulled.