Portuguese agricultural techniques are less mechanized than those of most of W Europe; about 10% of the workforce is employed in agriculture, producing less than 7% of the gross national product. Wheat, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, olives, grapes, and sugar beets are the main crops; sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, and poultry are raised. The country's fishing fleets bring in vital cargoes of sardines and tuna; fishing ports extend all the way from Cape St. Vincent in the south to the mouth of the Minho River on the N Spanish border.
Portugal has food and beverage processing, oil refining, shipbuilding, and industries that produce textiles and footwear; wood pulp and paper; metals and metalworking; chemicals; rubber and plastic products; ceramics; electronics; and communications, transportation, and aerospace equipment. Low-grade iron ore, copper, zinc, tin, tungsten, and other minerals are mined. Most of the mines are in the northern mountains and in Beira. Portugal's forests provide a major portion of the world's supply of cork. The country's hydroelectric, wind, and solar resources are being extensively developed to replace imported fossil fuels. Tourism, long important, has increasingly become a mainstay of the economy.
The country has enjoyed considerable economic progress since it became a member of the European Community (now the European Union) in 1986, though in the early 21st cent. it had weak growth and then suffered from recession beginning in late 2010. Clothing and footwear, machinery, chemicals, cork, paper products, and hides are major exports. Machinery and transportation equipment, chemicals, petroleum, textiles, and agricultural products are important imports. Spain, Germany, France, and Great Britain are the main trading partners.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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