Country Listing

Kuwait Table of Contents


Agriculture and Fishing

Agriculture has also seen minimal development. Kuwait's desert climate sustains little vegetation. Kuwait has no rivers, only a few wadis that fill with winter and spring rain. Scant rainfall, little irrigation water, and poor soils have always limited farming in Kuwait. Before the discovery of oil, several occupations contributed to the economy--nomads moving livestock to the sparse forage in the desert, pearling, and fishing--but none of these occupations provided much beyond subsistence. Once the government began receiving oil revenues, the contribution of other sectors to national income was reduced still further (see table 7, Appendix). Economic growth and welfare measures since World War II drew workers away from historical pursuits and lessened the role of agriculture. In the late 1980s, fewer than 10,000 people were employed in agriculture. The government invested some money in developing hydroponics to increase vegetable production. Kuwait's most important crops in 1989 were tomatoes (40,000 tons), dried onions (25,000 tons), melons (7,000 tons), dates (1,000 tons), and smaller amounts of cucumbers and eggplants. Some of these crops are grown hydroponically. Although Kuwait manages to export some vegetables, its agricultural potential remains limited.

Fishing provides a minor but important economic contribution. Much of the fishing for the local market was historically from small boats, including many native dhows. Large-scale commercial fishing is mostly confined to the United Fisheries of Kuwait, which operates a fleet of vessels as far afield as the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. United Fisheries is a large, international firm that processes and exports part of its catch, particularly frozen shrimp. However, in the 1970s overfishing in the gulf by many states considerably reduced catches of fish and shrimp. In 1989 Kuwait had a catch of approximately 4,700 tons of fish and 3,000 tons of shrimp and prawns. In the late 1980s, war and environmental damage, including oil spills, also reduced the attractiveness of the gulf fishing industry.

Data as of January 1993