Agriculture and forestry

Just a couple of generations ago agriculture was the main occupation of the Estonians. Nowadays only about 3% of the workforce is engaged in agriculture and the sector yields just slightly more than 3% of the overall production and 1.7 of GPD. As a result of the economic and property reforms of the early 1990s Estonian collective and state farms became history, giving way to small farms and associations. The transitional period of the 1990s was a hard time for agriculture – competition with cheap imported products became an issue, enterprises needed new equipment and vehicles, but money for it was nowhere to be found. In the late 1990s it became impossible to export into Russia due to its internal crises, though it had been the principal sales outlet for the Estonian agricultural produce during the Soviet era. Joining the European Union was good for Estonian agriculture, because from then on it was possible to sell food products to other European countries, as there were no longer any customs or importation restrictions, and the Russian market opened up again, too. Estonian farmers began receiving various grants that are still significantly smaller than in western Europe, although manufacturing costs have risen to almost the same level. Recent years have seen Estonian agricultural enterprises getting bigger. Modern technologies are being used more and more; there’s almost nothing left of the old manufacturing sector.

Milk cattle, also pigs and poultry are the main farm animals raised in Estonia. Field crops include cereal crops, potatoes and vegetables. Plant products are mostly for internal use, a considerable amount of meat is imported. Some dairy products and some specific products – e.g. cultivated and wild berries, mushrooms, ecologically pure produce etc -are for export. The figures of productivity of the Estonian agriculture are surpassed by those of many climatically better situated countries, but the local produce contain considerably less chemicals and organic farming is gaining popularity.

Forestry and Related Industries
The forest is among Estonia's most important natural resources and a source of a considerable amount of raw material. Although just 1% of Estonia's workforce is engaged in forestry and the branch gives somewhat more than 1% of Estonia's production, it provides raw material for timber, paper and furniture industries, which make up another 6% of the overall production and which employ more than 4.5% of the workforce.

The larger part of the output of Estonia's forestry and related industries goes for export, whereas Estonia increasingly exports goods of a higher value. The production and export of wooden construction details, wooden furniture and wooden houses has been going up consistently. The main export destinations are Finland, Sweden, Germany, Norway and Great Britain. Timber companies are located all over Estonia, a number of them in small towns or even in villages.

Estonian cellulose and paper industries have a long history, some factories (e.g. in Räpina) have been in operation since the mid-19th century. Today the raw material comes from local forests as well as from Russia, Latvia and Lithuania.

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