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Spain: Regional Variation
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Agriculture > Regional Variation


Because the interior of Spain is dominated by semiarid plateaus and mountains subject to temperature extremes, the most productive agricultural areas in the late 1980s tend to be the coastal regions. Thus the north and the northwest, where there is a relatively mild, humid climate were the principal cornproducing and cattle-raising areas. Apples and pears were the main orchard crops in this area, and potatoes were another of its leading products.

Galicia, which consists of Spain's four westernmost provinces directly north of Portugal, had a concentrated farm population living on intensely fragmented plots. Accordingly, per capita farm income was low, compared with that of the northern provinces lying to the east, where there were fewer people and higher per capita income levels because of a more diversified economy that included industry, mining, and tourism.

Catalonia, on the northeast coast, also has a climate that permits diversified agriculture. At the end of the 1980s, livestock particularly the expanding poultry industry was important in the area. Modern farming methods, including the use of tractors, were more advanced here than they were in the rest of the country. South of Catalonia, along the narrow Mediterranean coast, or Levante, was Spain's principal area of intensive, irrigated horticulture. Orange trees, orchard fruits, rice, and vegetables were produced in this region, and farther to the south, fig trees and nut trees were grown.

Andalusia, which includes all of tillable southern Spain, was another major agricultural area in the late 1980s. It was also the target of several agricultural planning programs. Although olive trees grow throughout the Mediterranean coastal region, as well as in parts of the Meseta Central (Central Plateau), they constituted the most important crop in Andalusia, particularly in the province of Jaen. Other warm-weather crops, such as cotton, tobacco, and sugarcane, were also produced in Andalusia, as were wine and table grapes.

The vast dry plateau region of central Spain contrasted sharply with the country's relatively productive areas. The production of agricultural commodities was particularly difficult in central Spain because of a lack of rainfall, a scarcity of trees and other vegetation, extremes of temperature, and harsh, rocky soil. Nevertheless, the farmers of the region grew wheat and other grains, raised sheep and goats, maintained vineyards, and carried on other agricultural activities.

An important irrigation system lies just northwest of the northern Meseta and south of the Pyrenees in the Ebro Basin, where Spain's best known vineyard district is located in the autonomous community of La Rioja. Because of its irrigation, corn, sugar beets, and orchard fruits, were grown in this area, and the Ebro Delta was one of Spain's principal rice-growing regions.

In the Balearic Islands (Spanish, Islas Baleares), the uncertain, sparse rainfall and the lack of permanent fresh water streams were somewhat compensated for by good supplies of underground water. Irrigation permitted the production of a wide range of temperate and semitropical tree corps for export, as well as enough cereals, legumes, wines, and vegetables for local consumption. Sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry were also raised on the islands.

Agriculture in the Canary Islands (Spanish, Canarias) was limited by water shortages and mountainous terrain. Nevertheless, a variety of vegetable and fruit crops were produced for local consumption, and there was a significant and exportable surplus of tomatoes and bananas.

Data as of December 1988

Last Updated: December 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Spain was first published in 1988. 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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