Farming is severely limited by the limited and often erratic rainfall and extensive soil erosion; more than 80% of the country's food must be imported. Cape Verde has considerable underground reserves of water, but extraction has proved extremely costly. The main crops are bananas, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, coffee, and peanuts. Goats, hogs, cattle, and sheep are raised. Tuna and lobster are the main catches of a small but potentially rich fishing industry. Salt is extracted and there are unexploited gypsum deposits. The islands' industries include food processing, the manufacture of shoes and clothing, salt mining, ship repair, and tourism, which is increasingly important to the economy.
The islands carry on a small foreign trade, mostly with Portugal, Spain, and other European Union countries; the annual cost of imports is usually much higher than export earnings. The main imports are foodstuffs, industrial products, transportation equipment, and fuels; the leading exports are fuel, shoes, garments, fish, and hides. Cape Verde's expatriate population is greater than its domestic one, and remittances from emigrants living in the United States, Portugal, and Africa constitute an important supplement to the islands' economy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.