Cambodia is one of the world's poorer nations, although its economy has recovered significantly from the effects of the civil war that racked the country during the latter part of the 20th cent. Conditions are ideal for the cultivation of rice, by far the country's chief crop. Livestock raising (cattle, buffalo, poultry, and hogs) and extensive fishing supplement the diet. Corn, vegetables, cashews, tapioca, peanuts, tobacco, cotton, and sugar palms are widely cultivated.
Rice and rubber historically were the principal exports of Cambodia, but exports fell sharply after the onset (1970) of the civil war, which put most of the rubber plantations out of operation. By the 1990s, however, rubber plantings had been undertaken as part of a national recovery program, and rubber and rice were again being exported. The fishing industry also has revived, but some food shortages continue.
Until recently, inadequate transportation hampered exploitation of the country's vast forests, but by the mid-1990s timber had become a major export. Mineral resources are not abundant, but phosphate rock, limestone, semiprecious stones, and salt support important local mining operations. Garment manufacturing for export is now an extremely important economically; many of the country's other industries are based on the the processing of rubber and agricultural, fish, and timber products. Tourism also contributes significantly to the economy.
Cambodia is connected by road systems with Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam; waterways are an important supplement to the roads. The country has two rail lines, one extending from Phnom Penh to the Thai border and the other from Phnom Penh to Kompong Som (Sihanoukville). Clothing, timber, rubber, rice, fish, tobacco, and footwear are the main exports; petroleum products, cigarettes, gold, construction materials, machinery, motor vehicles, and pharmaceuticals are the main imports. The chief trade partners are the United States, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and China.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.