Crop farming is currently the second most important economic activity in the country, after livestock, with up to 20-25% of the population depending on it for their livelihoods. Crop agriculture is currently an underdeveloped and offers considerable potential, both in cereal and horticultural production.
The production system is predominantly subsistence in nature. The principal crops are sorghum and maize grown for household level consumption, and fruit and vegetables farming, mainly for sale. Dominant horticultural crops include tomatoes, lettuce, onions, peppers, cabbages, oranges, lemons, and papaya.
Rain-fed farming accounts for 90% of the total area cultivated, while the area under irrigation constitutes only 10%. The sector is dominated by smallholder farmers who tend small farms ranging from 2 to 30 hectares in area. The size of the average farm is just about 4 hectares.
The irrigation sub-sector meets most of the country’s fruit and vegetable market demand, especially during the Gu season. It is, however, during the late, dry season (known as Jilal) and early in the Gu season that owners of irrigated farms make good profits, for the supply to the vegetable and fruit markets is low in this period. The shortfalls are usually filled by imports from neighbouring countries, such as Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Yemen.
Watermelon is the only fruit crop that is exported successfully to Djibouti. However, there is chronic deficiency in cereal production. All wheat, rice and sugar requirements are met though imports.
The agriculture sector also provides employment and income to people involved in the farm produce marketing chain at both whole sale and retail levels. There are great investments opportunities to commercialise the crop farming sector, and this will lead to significant increase in income to traders and producers.