Agriculture, including forestry, fishing, and other related sectoral pursuits, accounted for the largest share of GDP, contributing in constant teens some 31 percent of the total annually from 1977 through 1981. About 80 percent of the working population in the rural areas was engaged in agriculture and allied activities. Agricultural production was carried on along relatively distinct subsistence and commercial lines. A vast majority of agriculturists were smallholders employing age old cultivation methods. Officially labeled the traditional sector, this category of agriculturists produced the majority of its output for family use. Considerable numbers of smallholders, however, sold some products, including certain crops grown specifically for cash income. Although money was invariably used in the transactions, such trade has been consistently treated as non-monetary in economic statistics. Throughout the 1970s and in 1980 the traditional sector accounted for an average of about 58 percent of total agricultural value added practices; and privately owned Liberian farms that encompassed a range of activity from the cultivation of tree crops, vegetables, and rice to raising pigs and poultry. Their use of modern techniques and management practices varied widely. In 1981 a number of communal farms sponsored by the government were organized. They apparently functioned as commercial undertakings, but details on operations were not available in mid 1984.
Production in the commercial sector was almost entirely marketed. Within the sector three distinct operational and ownership patterns were prevalent. They included foreign owned enclave concessions (mainly rubber and forestry) that were operated by highly trained managerial and technical staffs using modern production techniques; government owned plantations (oil palms, cacao, and coffee) that in different degrees followed modern practices; and privately owned Liberian farms that encompassed a range of activity from the cultivation of tree crops, vegetables, and rice to raising pigs and poultry. Their use of modern techniques and management practices varied widely. In 1981 a number of communal farms sponsored by the government were organized. They apparently functioned as commercial undertakings, but details on operations were not available in mid 1984.
The principal food crops were rice, mostly of the upland variety, and cassava. These were grown throughout the country in the traditional sector, but cassava cultivation was more heavily relied on 111 the southeastern coastal region, where rainfall and cloud conditions were less favorable for rice. A variety of vegetables were also grown to supplement the two main staples. Climate and soils were variously well suited to tropical tree crops, including rubber, coffee, cacao, oil palm products, and coconuts. Tree crops have been a major source of export earnings; in the period 1979-81 rubber, coffee, cacao, and oil palm products accounted for almost one quarter of export receipts (See Foreign Trade and Balance of Payments, this ch.).
With the exception of a small area in the northwest bordering Sierra Leone, the narrow coastal zone, and a region in the southeast, all of Liberia was considered ecologically suitable for commercial production of rubber (see fig. 8). The area potentially usable for coffee cultivation was also large. In general, cacao could be grown throughout the same area; but soils required for satisfactory tree growth were less extensive, and rainfall factors placed some restrictions on profitable commercial cultivation. Oil palms grew naturally and were widely distributed, but for commercial planting the southeastern one third of the country offered the greatest future possibilities.
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