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Panama: Agriculture
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Agriculture


For centuries, agriculture was the dominant economic activity for most of Panama's population. After construction of the canal, agriculture declined; its share of GDP fell from 29 percent in 1950 to just over 9 percent in 1985. Agriculture has always employed a disproportionate share of the population because of its laborintensive nature. Nevertheless, the percentage of the labor force in agriculture has also dropped, from 46 percent in 1965 to 26 percent in 1984.

In 1985 crops accounted for 63.3 percent of value added in agriculture, followed by livestock (29.5 percent), fishing (4.3 percent), and forestry (2.9 percent). Despite its relative decline, agriculture was the main supplier of commodities for export, accounting for over 54 percent of total export earnings in 1985. The agricultural sector satisfied most of the domestic demand. The principal food imports were wheat and wheat products, because climatic conditions precluded wheat cultivation. In 1985 the value of food imports was US$108.7 million (8.8 percent of total imports), only half that of food exports.

Between 1969 and 1977, the government undertook agrarian reform and attempted to redistribute land. The expanded role of the state in agriculture improved social conditions in rural areas, but longterm economic effects of the agrarian reform were modest. In the early and mid-1980s, the government sought to reverse the decline of agriculture by diversifying agricultural production, lowering protection barriers, and reducing the state's role in agriculture. In March 1986, the government instituted major changes in the agricultural incentives law and removed price controls, trade restrictions, farm subsidies, and other supports.

Data as of December 1987

Last Updated: December 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Panama was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 79 of 142


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