Bolivia Table of Contents
Soybeans were the most lucrative legal cash crop in Bolivia in the 1980s. Soybean production began in earnest in the early 1970s, following a substantial increase in the crop's world price. By the late 1980s, soybeans represented the country's most important oilseed crop. In 1988 soybeans covered 65,000 hectares, and annual production amounted to about 150,000 tons, compared with 19,430 hectares producing 26,000 tons a decade earlier. About one-third of the soybean harvest was used domestically in the form of soybean meal for the poultry industry. Other soybean meal was shipped to Peru and Western Europe, and raw soybeans were exported via rail to Brazil. In order to process soybean oil for the local market, the country maintained a crushing capacity of 150,000 tons in 1988. Locally manufactured soybean oil also competed with contraband products from neighboring countries. Most of Santa Cruz's soybean farmers were members of the wellorganized and powerful National Association of Soybean Producers (Asociación Nacional de Productores de Soya--Anapo). Anapo, with assistance from AID, built new storage facilities that permitted continued expansion of the crop. Because of the dynamism of their crop, soybean farmers enjoyed the best availability of credit for all legal cash-crop producers.
Coffee, another principal cash crop, was the second most important agricultural export after timber. As the primary substitute crop offered to coca growers under the eradication program, coffee was of particular importance. Coffee production reached 13,000 tons in 1988, nearly double the 1987 output, which was damaged by disease in western Bolivia. Over 20,000 hectares were devoted to coffee. Bolivia consumed 25 percent of its coffee crop locally in 1988, with the balance exported both legally and clandestinely. Legal exports of 102,000 bags, sixty kilograms each as measured by the International Coffee Organization (ICO), were equivalent to Bolivia's export quota for 1988, which was over US$15 million. An ICO member since 1968, Bolivia was permitted to export 170,000 of the sixty-kilogram bags in 1989. Approximately 25 percent of coffee exports left the country illegally in the late 1980s. Most coffee was grown by small farmers in the valleys or by large farmers in the lowlands. Most commercial farmers were members of the Bolivian Coffee Committee (Comité Boliviano del Café--Cobolca), which allocated ICO quotas. The coffee industry also received technical assistance from the Bolivian Institute of Coffee (Instituto Boliviano de Café), an autonomous government agency established in 1965 to run model farms and help control disease.
Bolivia had been self-sufficient in sugar production since 1963, although sugarcane had been grown since the colonial era. Sugarcane in the 1980s was a cash crop of significance for both the domestic and the export markets. In 1988 cultivation of sugarcane on 62,000 hectares produced 140,000 tons of sugar. These figures represented a sharp decline from 1986 figures. The price of sugar had skyrocketed in the mid-1970s, doubling the number of hectares under sugarcane cultivation in a few years. As sugar prices declined, however, farmers opted for more lucrative crops, such as soybeans. The decline in the sugar industry also was caused by poor management, dwindling yields, and poor quality control. In 1988 the country's six sugar mills operated at only 37 percent capacity. Sugarcane also was processed into methanol for the domestic and export markets. Continued controls on imports of sugar constituted one of the few exceptions to the import liberalization policies of the late 1980s.
Although cotton was a boom crop in the early 1970s, production had waned since 1975. Grown mostly in Santa Cruz, cotton covered 54,000 hectares in 1975 but only 9,000 hectares in 1988. Production declined from 22,000 tons to 3,700 tons over the same period. Price was the primary reason for the decline, but insect problems, disease, and the lack of credit also contributed. Because Santa Cruz cotton farmers represented an important constituency, they had traditionally received highly favorable terms of credit. When cotton growing was no longer profitable, however, many cotton farmers defaulted on their loans, leaving the government's Agricultural Bank of Bolivia (Banco Agrícola de Bolivia -- BAB) in a poor financial position in the late 1980s. Because of the precipitous decline in the industry, the country's ten cotton mills were operating at under one-half of their capacity by the late 1980s.
Cash crops of lesser importance included tobacco, tea, cocoa, and oilseeds, such as sesame, peanuts, castor beans, and sunflowers. Approximately 1,000 tons of tobacco for the Bolivian market were grown on about 1,000 hectares. Tea was grown as a secondary crop in the Yungas, Alto Beni (Upper Beni), and Santa Cruz areas. Eighty percent of the country's cacao trees, from which cocoa is derived, were grown in the Alto Beni by a network of cooperatives that were increasingly involved in processing cocoa and exporting chocolate products. Oilseeds were an important part of both the agricultural and the manufacturing sectors. The growing dominance of soybeans, however, diminished the role of other oilseeds in the economy.
Data as of December 1989
Bolivia Table of Contents