ECONOMY: AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND LIVESTOCK
Primary activities – agriculture and livestock – are the basis of the Paraguayan economy: the primary sector in fact employs 32.4% of the workforce, participating for 24% in the formation of GDP (2007); however, the arable land covers only 6% of the territorial surface. The production structures are largely archaic; large estates or small and very small properties predominate and in both cases the degree of agricultural mechanization is very low. The restrictions that were imposed by the European Economic Community on the purchase of Paraguayan meat, one of the fundamental exports for the country until the mid-1970s, led the government to strengthen certain agricultural productions, such as cotton and soybeans, for which there is strong demand on foreign markets. Overall the agriculture is quite diverse; it is aimed at the production of both products intended for internal consumption – especially foodstuffs – and of products destined for international trade (cotton, oil seeds, wood and meat).
According to cheeroutdoor, the main food crops are cassava, widely spread, maize, present in the central and eastern section of the country, and other cereals, including rice, grown in the flood plains between the Paraguay and Paraná rivers, and wheat; potatoes and legumes, in particular beans, also traditionally play an important role in local nutrition. Fruit growing is well represented, with a prevalence of citrus fruits, introduced by the Jesuits in the colonial era, bananas and pineapples; vines are grown in the Villarrica district. For the purposes of export prevails sugar cane (grown in the departments of Guairá, Paraguarí and Central), which is mainly used for the manufacture of rum and alcohol, cotton, which has experienced considerable development; notable importance also have tobacco, coffee, soy and other oilseeds, including castor, the tung, peanuts, oil palm. § As mentioned, another great resource of Paraguay is given by forests: in addition to timber (in the country there are precious woods such as walnut, cedar and mahogany), tannin is obtained, obtained from quebracho colorado, a particular very hard and very heavy wood, and yerba mate. § Livestock farming has long been, as in neighboring Argentina, an essential factor in the country’s economy and is still very important today; it has very large areas (over half of the land area in 2007) and can count on a considerable livestock patrimony, especially as regards cattle, pigs and poultry. Only in the North has cattle breeding established itself in large and modern estancias and with selected breeds; elsewhere small family farms still predominate, where livestock farming is generally practiced with old-fashioned and unprofitable methods.
ECONOMY: TRADE AND COMMUNICATIONS
Internal trade is underdeveloped, given the poverty of the population, and limited to some major consumer goods; on the other hand, foreign exchanges are quite lively, but the trade balance shows an almost constant deficit. Soybean and soybean oil, wheat, corn, cotton, sugar cane, meat, hides and skins, precious wood, cotton, iron, electricity are exported; mostly machinery and means of transport, consumer goods, tobacco, petroleum products, fuels are imported. The main trading partner is Brazil, which imports a large part of the electricity produced in Itaipu; Paraguay also trades with Uruguay, Russia, Argentina, Chile and Germany for exports, the USA, Argentina and China for imports. The merchant fleet is very modest; much of the foreign trade is carried out by ships from Argentina or other states. § A serious obstacle to Paraguay’s rapid economic development derives from the inadequate internal road system which, despite the progress made, remains very poor: the railway sector is lacking. With the exception of some narrow-gauge logs, used mainly for the transport of timber from Chaco to river ports, the country has only the Asunción-Encarnación line of 441 km (from the latter a ferry on Paraná connects the Paraguayan railway with the Argentine one. to despite the progress made, it remains very weak: the railway sector is deficient. With the exception of some narrow-gauge logs, used mainly for the transport of timber from Chaco to river ports, the country has only the Asunción-Encarnación line of 441 km (from the latter a ferry on Paraná connects the Paraguayan railway with the Argentine one. to despite the progress made, it remains very weak: the railway sector is deficient. With the exception of some narrow-gauge logs, used mainly for the transport of timber from Chaco to river ports, the country has only the Asunción-Encarnación line of 441 km (from the latter a ferry on Paraná connects the Paraguayan railway with the Argentine one. to Posadas); the road network is also modest (29,500 km of which 15,045 were asphalted in 2000): the areas best served are those to the east and south of the capital. Among the major arteries are the Pan-American Highway, which from Asunción reaches Ciudad del Este, where the “Friendship” bridge spans the Paraná, allowing communications with Brazil, and the road through the Chaco, which connects Asunción with Bolivia. The fluvial ones (ca. 3100 km) are still fundamental communication arteries, represented by the courses of Paraguay, Paraná and their tributaries; they connect the country in an extremely advantageous way with the Río de la Plata and therefore with the Atlantic Ocean. The main river port is that of Asunción; followed by those of Encarnación, Pilar and Concepción. In 1978, a large bridge over the Paraguay River was opened to traffic, thanks to which easier communications between the western and eastern sections of the country were made possible. Air services, especially international ones, are good and constantly developing.