According to ehealthfacts, Portugal was an eminently agricultural country until the 1960s, but the sector has always been strongly affected by the technical and organizational backwardness of the national economy; to this are added the presence of large areas of little fertility (with 18.5% of uncultivated land) and the overall unfavorable climatic conditions, characterized by low rainfall irregularly distributed throughout the year and such as to make it necessary in many areas to irrigation of the fields. Consequently, Portuguese agriculture, in addition to presenting strong internal imbalances, is characterized by very low productivity. The harvests, already quite modest and completely insufficient for internal needs, they further decreased in the first half of the 1980s due to the chaotic and contradictory land reform, which gave rise to disorientation and boycotts by the former landowners. This has made it necessary to increasingly resort to imports for basic foodstuffs. Significant community contributions have been made to the modernization of the entire primary sector, including fishing, since the country’s entry into the EEC, with quite positive results. Among the locally produced cereals, wheat is predominant, which tolerates drought better and is therefore widespread in arid regions, from the upper Tagus valley to the Algarve mountains, and maize, which is instead the main cereal product of the humid northern regions., but which is present wherever continuous irrigation is possible, hortas of the Algarve; rice is spreading in the low Mondego, Tagus and Sado valleys. Less important are rye, oats and barley.
The production of potatoes is considerable. Fruit crops are also widespread, present in all the lands that can be irrigated, especially in the Center and South: the Algarve is a typical area of Mediterranean agriculture, which has been impressed with the characteristics of the Arab domination. Almonds, figs, oranges and other citrus fruits, apples, pears, tomatoes, legumes etc. are produced. Among the oil plants an important place has the olive tree, which is widespread throughout the country; Most of the oil production is exported, while the import of seed oil is on the rise. Among the woody crops the main one is by far that of the wine vine, País do Vinho par excellence, and on the N and SE hills of Lisbon. The cultivation of the vine, well organized in medium and large companies, has taken on a strong specialization, given its important commercial role. The grape is in fact almost totally at the service of a prestigious wine industry, highly appreciated all over the world and which has established regional qualifications (Setúbal for muscat wines, Porto for dessert wines, Collares and Madeira for fragrant wines, etc.): in particular for the Port, a special government body has been operating for some time, the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, which ensures control over the quality and production of this highly prized product. The forests occupy a total of 41.3% of the national surface and allow for the production of work and cabinet-making timber. Most of the essences are resinous which, in addition to wood, provide resins and turpentine; but there are also extensive cork forests, especially in the Tagus valley and on the Alentejo coast, with one of the highest production in the world. Livestock breeding is mostly subsidiary, being essentially aimed at the service of agriculture; however, in the Serra da Estrela, traditional forms of pastoral activity still survive which still involve transhumance along the ancient sheep tracks. Sheep prevails, which can now rely on more rational farming systems; followed by pigs, poultry, widely distributed, and cattle, limited to the northern mountainous area, which is more humid and rich in pastures; however, the dairy industry is modest, although the tendency to produce milk and dairy products – in addition to meat – is accentuated as a function of urban consumption. Fishing, together with related activities (canning industry), represents one of the major resources of the Portuguese economy.
Exercised since ancient times, especially on the Atlantic coast, it is practiced by a fairly well-equipped flotilla; however, it is affected by growing foreign competition and the progressive scarcity of fish stocks along the coasts, which makes it necessary to resort to deep-sea fishing, for which the Portuguese fleet is generally poorly equipped. The typical and most abundant product is represented by sardines, which are exported preserved in olive oil and whose main processing centers are in Setúbal, Matosinhos and Portimão; tuna followed in importance, caught off the coast of the Algarve, and anchovies (Olhão fillets). At the mouths of the Tagus and Sado rivers, the oyster farming; finally, cod fishing in the Newfoundland shoals is noteworthy, practiced by boats of greater tonnage, equipped with refrigeration equipment. The main fishing ports are Setúbal, Peniche, Figueira da Foz, Aveiro, Nazaré, Leixões and Viana do Castelo.