Agriculture employs approx. 45% of the workforce and 15% of GDP. The industry is mostly run by traditional and labor-intensive methods, with low mechanization and low productivity. Bolivia has small areas suitable for cultivation and most of this is on Altiplano where the climatic conditions are not very suitable. Most potatoes, maize, wheat and barley are grown here for local consumption. Agriculture in the tropical lowlands of the east, around Santa Cruz, is run by more intensive and modern methods. Rice and sales crops such as sugar cane, soy and cotton are grown here. Citrus fruits, bananas and coffee are grown in the steep valley of Yungas. In addition, here and in the neighboring district of Chaparé, most of the cook is grown. As a result of international pressure, the authorities have tried to get the farmers to grow other products, such as. sugar.
According to countryaah, the livestock team is significant in several places. Santa Cruz is the center of the country’s most important cattle district. At Altiplano, sheep and goats are the most important livestock, otherwise llama, alpaca and mules are used for transport. Animal husbandry is possible up to 5000 meters above sea level. Meat and hides are important export goods.
About 50% of the country’s area is covered by forest. To the north and east of the Andes are large areas with evergreen and deciduous tropical hardwoods of high quality, but transport difficulties have so far prevented large-scale exploitation.
Minerals, gas and oil
The mines employed 1% of the working population and contributed 7% of GDP in 2001. The most important minerals are zinc, tin, silver, gold, lead and antimony. Some tungsten and copper are also extracted. Bolivia has long been the only producer of tin in the American continent. Falling prices on the world market meant that Bolivia during the period from 1980 to 1992 reduced its tin production by 1/3, and Peru has overtaken as the continent’s biggest producer. The largest tin mines are Llallagua near Oruro and Cerro Rico at Potosí. Silver, gold and copper were mined during the colonial period. The silver mines at Potosí were put into operation in 1546, and have long been the richest in the world.
Oil and natural gas are produced in Oriente east of the Andes, especially around Santa Cruz. The first oil fields were put into operation in 1927. New, large discoveries were made later and production culminated in the early 1970s. A network of oil pipelines has been built from the production fields. to the port city of Arica in Chile. From 1999 gas pipeline from Santa Cruz, via São Paulo, to Porto Alegre in Brazil. Total annual oil production was in 2002 at 11.3 million barrels. Natural gas production was 4.2 billion m 3 in the same year. Several new natural gas fields were discovered in the latter part of the 1990s. In 2002, natural gas accounted for 20% and oil for 5.7% of total export revenue.
The industry is underdeveloped and employs approx. 20% of the working population. Main industries are petroleum refining, food and beverage production and the metal industry. The textile industry is concentrated in La Paz and Cochabamba. In Oruro there is a tin smelting plant. A petrochemical complex is built in Santa Cruz; smaller oil refineries are found in Cochabamba, Sucre, Camiri and Sanandita.
After a period in the 1980s with trade surpluses abroad, the country has since the mid-1990s a significant trade deficit. Legal, official exports comprise 90% of minerals and natural gas. Much of the export revenue goes to paying interest and repayments on foreign debt, and Bolivia has been forced, for economic reasons, to restrict imports to include capital goods, transport equipment, industrial raw materials and, to a lesser extent, consumer goods. Major trading partners are the United States, which accounts for 22% of imports and 31% of exports. Argentina, Peru and the United Kingdom are also important trading partners. A considerable part of foreign trade goes over the ports of Matarani (Peru), Arica and Antofagasta (Chile), Rosario and Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Santos (Brazil).
Transport and Communications
Bolivia’s road network is approx. 40,000 km, most without a fixed tire, but the proportion of roads that are steep or paved is greatly increasing. The country’s weak economy, the difficult terrain and the isolated location of the cities have made the lack of transport opportunities a significant problem. Road is concentrated to the highlands, Altiplano, while the eastern lowlands have very sparse communications. The rivers are navigable here, but mean little to the transport. Bolivia has a rail connection to the port cities of Arica and Antofagasta in Chile and (via Lake Titicaca) Mollendo in Peru, but the rail network is in very poor condition. There are economical rail links from El Alto and Oruro and south to Uyuni.
Air traffic is relatively well developed, with international airports in La Paz and Santa Cruz and airports in most other major locations.
See also the article Tourism in Bolivia.