Over half of Kyrgyzstan's population is engaged in agriculture and herding. There is rich pasturage for sheep, goats, cattle, and horses. Most of the cultivated area is irrigated. Cotton, tobacco, potatoes, sugar beets, vegetables, grapes, fruits, and berries are grown; sericulture is carried on, and grain crops are cultivated in the nonirrigated areas.
Kyrgyzstan has deposits of gold, rare earth metals, coal, oil, natural gas, nepheline, mercury, bismuth, lead, zinc, and uranium. Industries include food processing, nonferrous metallurgy, forestry, and the manufacture of apparel and textiles, agricultural machinery, appliances, furniture, and electric motors. In addition, the Kyrgyz are also noted for such traditional handicrafts as wood carving, carpet weaving, and jewelry making. Many citizens work abroad, especially in Kazakhstan and Russia, and their remittances are important to Kyrgyzstan's economy.
The nation's leading exports are cotton, wool, meat, tobacco, metals (particularly gold, mercury, and uranium), natural gas, hydropower, and machinery; the chief imports are oil and gas, machinery and equipment, chemicals, and foodstuffs. The main trading partners are China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kazakhstan.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.