Agriculture still employs a majority of the population (though it produces a smaller share of the GDP than industry and services), and rice is by far the leading crop. The Mekong and Red river deltas are among the world's greatest rice-growing regions, the former benefiting from heavy rainfall and rich alluvial soil and the latter notable for its elaborate network (c.2,700 mi/4,350 km) of dikes, dams, canals, and locks that provide irrigation and flood control. Soybeans, peanuts, bananas, corn, and sweet potatoes are secondary food crops, and coffee, cotton, tea, pepper, cashews, and sugarcane are among the cash crops. Fishing and aquaculture comprise an important industry, and marine products are a major export, especially shrimp. Rubber is also important. Timber resources are still substantial, particularly in the north, but deforestation resulting from highland resettlement, shifting cultivation, and commercial cutting is an increasingly serious problem.
Most of the country's mineral resources are in the north. Vietnam produces large amounts of coal as well as having sizable deposits of phosphates, manganese, bauxite, chromate, and other metal ores. Substantial offshore oil and gas deposits exist in southern waters, and crude oil is an important export; petroleum products are refined as well. Vietnam's industrial development was hampered by more than three decades of war, but as a result of economic reforms that began in the late 20th cent. and accelerated in the early 21st cent., there has been considerable industrial development. Important industries include food processing; machine building; mining; and the production of clothing, steel, chemical fertilizers, glass, tires, oil, and mobile phones. The tourism industry is also significant. The major exports are crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, and shoes. The main imports are machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel, cotton, grain, and motorcycles. Vietnam's main trading partners are China, Singapore, the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.