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Yugoslavia: Agriculture
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Structure of the Economy > Agriculture


Yugoslavia has abundant fertile farmland. Throughout the postwar period, the private sector predominated in both amount of land tilled and production. In 1987 the 2.6 million privately owned farms in Yugoslavia accounted for 84 percent of all agricultural land. The social sector in agriculture included large agroindustrial complexes, or combines, which also processed the food they produced and dominated the food processing industry. The agricultural social sector also included state farms, owned and operated directly by the state, and general agricultural cooperatives. Most of the farms in the social sector were located in the north, in the Pannonian Plains of Vojvodina and eastern Croatia. All government agricultural investments and subsidies were reserved for state farms and general agricultural cooperatives; this meant that social sector farming was usually more efficient and more technologically advanced than private sector farming.

Over 65 percent of arable land in Yugoslavia was devoted to the cultivation of cereals, particularly corn, wheat, and rye. The principal nonfood crop was tobacco, which supplied the domestic cigarette industry; hemp, cotton, and hops also were widely cultivated and processed domestically. Almost all the cotton and more than half of the tobacco came from Macedonia, while more than 60 percent of hops were grown in Slovenia. Cooperative farms on the Pannonian Plains produced corn, wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, and sunflowers. All regions of the country produced wine, each area with its own characteristic varieties. Yugoslavia was also known for cultivation of orchard fruits, particularly plums, apples, pears, and peaches.

Pigs, sheep, horses, and cattle were the main types of livestock raised in Yugoslavia. Pigs and poultry were raised for meat, cattle for meat and dairy products, sheep mainly for wool. Serbia was the largest pig-breeding area; the large Muslim populations of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo limited pig breeding in those regions. Sheep raising was centered in the uplands of Serbia and Macedonia, beef and dairy cattle in the northern republics and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Live animals and meat products were two of Yugoslavia's largest export items in the late 1980s.

Irrigation, flood control, drainage works, and facilities for produce distribution and storage were adequate only in some regions of Yugoslavia in 1990. Construction of such agricultural infrastructure required heavy capital expenditure that was often unavailable because of the chronic undercapitalization of Yugoslav agriculture. Thus, Yugoslav farming enterprises remained highly vulnerable to weather conditions in the 1980s. For this reason, and because of population growth and higher nutritional expectations after World War II, Yugoslavia was a net importer of agricultural products through the entire postwar period. The United States, the Soviet Union, Australia, and Canada were Yugoslavia's main suppliers of food, mostly grain.

In the 1980s, the Yugoslav agricultural sector performed inefficiently. The food distribution system was weak, farm incomes were low, and until the 1990 reform agricultural prices were under strict control. Moreover, because most investment funds were earmarked for the social sector, state farms showed higher yields than farms in the much larger private sector. State agricultural investment policy thus prevented application of modern agricultural methods in over 80 percent of agricultural activity, resulting in inefficient use of large amounts of agricultural machinery and artificial fertilizers. The longstanding imbalance of agricultural investment and the importance of the private sector were recognized in the 1980s by the federal government Green Plans, which devoted special attention and funding to agriculture and officially recognized the private sector as the most important supplier of farm produce. The Green Plans did increase crop yields somewhat, but in the late 1980s they were unable to overcome the inherent weakness of investment and infrastructure policy.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. 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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