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The agriculture sector plays an important role in Macedonia’s economy through its contributions to GDP (agriculture accounts for 12% of GDP), employment, trade and the rural economy, with the country’s nearly half the population living in rural areas. About 49% of the total land area is agricultural land, split evenly between cultivable land and pastures. Of the cultivated land, about 80% is used by approximately 180,000 private family farms. As in many Western Balkan countries, almost half the populations live in rural areas.
Exports of agriculture and food products in 2016 constituted 12.25 percent of Macedonia’s total exports. The top markets for agriculture and food products are the EU and Western Balkan Countries (Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina), accounting for (approximately 82.3 percent of the total exports). The main export products from North Macedonia are fresh and processed vegetables and fruits (34.8 percent of total agricultural exports), tobacco (24 percent), grains (13.5 percent), and beverages (12 percent). The main import products are meat (beef, poultry, and pork accounted for 20 percent of total agriculture imports), fruits and vegetables, grains, coffee, tea, and spices.
Officially, almost one fifth of the working force is employed in agriculture, 14.8% of the value added of the manufacturing sector in the food industry and around 10% of exports is generated in agriculture. The combination of Continental and Sub-Mediterranean climate, characterized by long, warm summers and short, not too severe winters, and fertile soil provide generally excellent conditions for production of a range of food products.
The major contributors to exports within the food products segment, by a wide margin, are fruit and vegetables (40.8%) and beverages (29.0%). Within the beverages part wine is the most important component.
Food and beverage processing are significant Macedonian industries, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Processed foods include both semi-finished products (including frozen, dried, and concentrate) and finished products (canned and preserved). Over 75 percent of the processed foods are exported, mostly to the EU and to neighboring countries. Most of the food-processing facilities are in private hands. In 2016, agribusiness (including agriculture, forestry, and fisheries) accounted for 7.7 percent of GDP and 16.6 percent of the total number of persons employed in North Macedonia.