Traditionally, agriculture and livestock management are
the dominant industries in Afghanistan. However, the large
foreign presence in the country and the move into cities
during the 2000s have meant that the emphasis in GDP has
shifted from agriculture to the trade and services sector,
as well as construction and civil engineering. The country,
which is one of the world's poorest, has only in recent
decades started to build up a factory industry.
In 1957, government-run five-year plans were introduced
in the business sector, which, despite extensive problems,
yielded results in several areas: the main roads improved,
airports, dams and bridges were built, natural gas began to
be extracted and industrial production increased. Irrigation
programs were implemented in agriculture. Modernization was
mainly focused on larger projects, but they rarely affected
the majority of the population. Several projects were
carried out with outside assistance, mainly from the Soviet
Union and the United States.
According to countryaah, the plans that were drawn up for the country's future
business after the mid-1970s were overthrown by the Soviet
invasion in 1979 and the subsequent fighting thereafter. The
country is then highly dependent on foreign aid.
Illegal opium production again increased, mainly in the
Taliban controlled area. According to the United Nations
Anti-Drug Organization, in 2013, opium was grown on 209,000
hectares, which is the largest area since measurement began.
About 60 percent of the population feed on agriculture
and livestock. The degree of mechanization is low. The
cultivated land is estimated to comprise 8 million ha, of
which more than half is estimated to be irrigated. There are
traditionally three main irrigation systems: channels
derived from rivers and streams, underground channels
(karezer) and wells whose water is pumped up and discharged
onto the cultivation land. In drier areas, the agricultural
land is characteristic. The dominant crop is wheat, and
other important food plants are corn, rice, barley and
potatoes. Fruit cultivation is also of great importance,
among other things. for export. Cotton is grown partly for
the domestic textile industry and partly for export.
Forests are estimated to cover 3 percent of Afghanistan's
area and are found mainly in the eastern parts and on
Hindukush's southern slopes. Wood is used as fuel and
building material. Livestock management mainly provides a
direct supply to a local population, while skins and wool
are important commodities. Sheep dominate, and the skins of
the caracal sheep are famous and highly valued. Wool goes to
domestic carpet production and to export. Other livestock
are cattle and goats. Donkeys, horses, camels, water
buffaloes and mules are important pulling and loading
animals. Prior to the Soviet invasion of 1979, the country
was largely self-sufficient in food.
Minerals and energy
Afghanistan is rich in economically important minerals.
Large deposits of natural gas have been found in the
northern parts of the country. There are storage and
refining facilities in the natural gas fields. The coal
deposits, especially on the north side of Hindukush, are
also huge. Annual production in the 1980s was approximately
150,000 tonnes, but has subsequently declined. Oil
production is small; the currently known deposits of 14
million tonnes are believed to be a fraction of real assets.
One of the world's largest unexploded iron ore deposits
is found in the Hajigak massif in Bamian in central
Afghanistan. The iron content is high (63 percent), but when
the ore is over 3,500 meters above sea level. transport
costs have so far been too high for utilization. Significant
copper deposits are found in Ainak near Kabul; quarrying is
underway, and a smelter is planned. In addition, there are
deposits of lead, zinc, gold, silver and uranium. Also
important are rock salt, emeralds and lapis lazuli.
Afghanistan has great water energy potential, but
extensive dam buildings are necessary before it can be
utilized. More significant facilities exist only in the
Kabul/Jalalabad area. Coal and natural gas are used in
thermal power plants.
The manufacturing industry in Afghanistan is very small.
Data on the number of employees are uncertain and seasonal
work is common. In 2017, 18 per cent of the working men were
estimated to have paid employment in the industry (including
the construction industry). Manufacturing is mainly focused
on the processing of agricultural and livestock products.
Most important is the cotton industry, which, however,
failed to meet the domestic need. Other industrial products
are manure, cement, sugar, vegetable oil and woolen fabrics.
It is impossible to draw a sharp boundary between
industry and craft, and in Afghanistan's many bazaars there
is a craft-based industry that produces a variety of
consumer goods. A traditional and still important source of
nutrition is the manufacture and export of the famous Afghan
rugs. Other handicraft products are copper, leather and
The information on Afghanistan's foreign trade is
uncertain and reflects a limited international exchange. The
most important export goods are opium, fruits, vegetables
(to India and Pakistan) as well as dried fruits, carpets,
cotton and karakul leather. The main import goods are food,
capital goods, petroleum products, vehicles, machinery and
textile products. Alongside official trade there is a
significant smuggling of drugs, gems and weapons, among
others. Opievallmoodling has increased sharply since the
outbreak of war, and opium is exported mainly to Pakistan.