Country Listing

Portugal Table of Contents




Lisnave docks near Lisbon
Courtesy General Directorate of Mass Communication, Lisbon

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing employed 17.8 percent of Portugal's labor force but accounted for only 6.2 percent of GDP in 1990. With the principal exception of the alluvial soils of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River in English) valley and the irrigated sections of the Alentejo, crop yields and animal productivity remained well below those of the other EC members. Portugal's agro-food deficit (attributable mainly to grain, oilseed, and meat imports) represented about 2.5 percent of GDP, but its surplus on forestry products (wood, cork, and paper pulp) offset its food deficit.

Portugal's overall agricultural performance was unfavorable when viewed in the context of the country's natural resources and climatic conditions. Agricultural productivity (gross farm output per person employed) was well below that of the other West European countries in 1985, at half of the levels in Greece and Spain and a quarter of the EC average.

A number of factors contributed to Portugal's poor agricultural performance. First, the level of investment in agriculture was traditionally very low. The number of tractors and the quantity of fertilizer used per hectare were one-third the EC average in the mid-1980s. Second, farms in the north were small and fragmented; half of them were less than one hectare in size, and 86 percent less than five hectares. Third, the collective farms set up in the south after the 1974-75 expropriations proved incapable of modernizing, and their efficiency declined. Fourth, poor productivity was associated with the low level of education of farmers. Finally, distribution channels and economic infrastructure were inadequate in parts of the country.

Data as of January 1993