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Republic of Congo Agriculture and Fishing Overview
Despite good soils and favorable rainfall, agriculture in Congo-Brazzaville is underdeveloped. Historically, the rulers of Congo-Brazzaville have invested more in cities than in rural areas. For many years agriculture was neglected by the rulers and farmers left the countryside for work in the cities. Agriculture was then destroyed during the civil war of 1997 ̶ 2000.
In 2003, President Sassou-Nguesso's government launched a ten-year plan to strengthen agriculture and reduce food imports. By investing in small-scale agriculture, with the help of foreign lenders and aid providers, production increased, but the country is not yet self-sufficient. Approximately one fifth of the population is regularly at risk of food shortages.
Most crops are grown for self-catering by families on small lots. The farmers mainly grow cassava for their own use, but corn, rice and sweet potatoes are also common crops. Agricultural exports are of little importance to the economy. The most important export crops are sugar and tobacco grown on plantations.
The production of cocoa, coffee and palm oil has decreased in importance since the 1980s, but in recent years the government has started to invest in palm oil again. In 2010, a large palm oil producing company from Malaysia was authorized to use large areas of state land in the northern parts of Congo-Brazzaville to develop palm cultivation and increase production.
In 2011, an agreement was concluded between Congo-Brazzaville and South African farmers, who would lease about 200,000 hectares of Congolese land for 30 years. According to the government, Congo-Brazzaville, in return, would have access to new efficient agricultural technology and thus increase agricultural production. The leased land belonged to state-run farms where operations were closed down. The first South African agriculture started in the Niari province in the western part of the country, but the project was not the success hoped for. Lack of money, drought and organizational problems led to failed harvests and many of the South Africans gave up.
About two-thirds of Congo-Brazzaville's land area is covered by forests that provide important export income. Until the 1970s, when oil began to be extracted, timber was the most important export commodity. Nowadays, the timber accounts for about two-thirds of non-oil exports. Nine out of ten exported logs go to China.
Timber production has risen steadily since the end of the war, but illegal logging, corruption and low taxes for the foreign companies that harvest forest have limited the state's revenue. The government has demanded forest companies to process more timber within the country and introduced fines for companies that did not comply with the regulations. In cooperation with the EU, the government is trying to reduce the illegal harvesting.
In June 2011, when Congo-Brazzaville hosted a meeting on the world's rainforests, President Sassou-Nguesso announced that the country would plant one million hectares of trees by 2020., partly to produce firewood and pulp.
Livestock management is limited, partly because the tse-tse fly spreads insomnia among the animals and partly because the land is needed for the forest.
Fishing is also of little economic importance, although there is commercial fishing of mainly tuna on the coast. In addition, fishing rights are sold to foreign fishing fleets. For individual residents, fishing - especially in the rivers - can be important for the livelihood.
FACTS - AGRICULTURE
Agriculture's share of GDP
7.1 percent (2018)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
31.1 percent (2016)
PCT proposes constitutional change
The PCT government proposes that the constitution be amended so that President Sassou-Nguesso can be re-elected in 2016. According to the current constitution, no president may sit for more than two terms of office and not be older than 70 years. Sassou-Nguesso, who has just turned 71, is in his second term.
Tensions between police and immigrants
Eleven people are killed in clashes between police and the approximately 400,000-600,000 Congo-Kinshasa immigrants believed to be living in Congo-Brazzaville. The unrest that lasts for several weeks breaks out in April as the Brazzaville government decides to deport 180,000 people to the neighboring country after being blamed for a crime wave in Congo-Brazzaville. The police have previously been accused of brutality against immigrants, and at least a dozen police officers must have been fired because of it. According to the Foreign Ministry in Congo-Kinshasa, people are expelled despite having valid papers and many are alleged to have been subjected to serious abuse.