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Economy, Agriculture

Tolima, Cundinamarca, Antioquia, cacao beans, Santander

Coffee is Colombia’s principal crop. Although Colombia is second only to Brazil in the annual volume of coffee produced and is the world’s leading producer of mild coffee, the crop was bypassed by petroleum in the mid-1990s as the country’s largest source of foreign income. In the mid-1970s coffee accounted for 80 percent of Colombia’s export earnings; by 1995 coffee only brought in 25 percent of the nation’s export earnings. High production costs, low international prices, and a worm that destroys coffee beans all combined to drastically reduce the earnings of Colombian coffee growers in the early 1990s. Coffee is cultivated chiefly on mountain slopes between about 900 and 1,800 m (about 3,000 and 6,000 ft) above sea level, principally in the departments of Caldas, Antioquia, Cundinamarca, Norte de Santander, Tolima, and Santander. More than 150,000 coffee plantations, chiefly small, extend over approximately 1 million hectares (approximately 2.5 million acres). Coffee output totaled 700,000 metric tons in 2001, with most of the exported coffee going to the United States.

While coffee is Colombia’s leading agricultural product, the country’s diverse climate and topography permit cultivation of a wide variety of other crops. Annual production of principal cash crops in addition to coffee are cacao beans (51,558 metric tons), sugarcane (34.5 million), tobacco (33,216), cotton (105,000), bananas, and cut flowers. Chief food crops are rice (2.1 million), cassava (1.8 million), potatoes (2.8 million), and plantains. Plants producing pita, sisal, and hemp fibers, used in the manufacture of cordage and coarse sacking material, are also cultivated. In 2001 the livestock population included 28.3 million cattle, 2.8 million hogs, 2.2 million sheep, and 2.5 million horses.

The production of drug-related crops took on significant proportions in the 1970s as more people cultivated marijuana. Although Colombia has become notorious for its cocaine supply, the processing of coca leaves is more significant than the actual coca plant cultivation in the country. Poppies for opium have become a significant source of revenue despite efforts by the government to stop their cultivation. The drug trade increased in the mid-1990s to an estimated 10 percent of the money generated in the economy.



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