Agriculture and Fishing
Agriculture has also seen minimal development. Kuwait's desert
climate sustains little vegetation. Kuwait has no rivers, only
a few wadis that fill with winter and spring rain. Scant rainfall,
little irrigation water, and poor soils have always limited farming
in Kuwait. Before the discovery of oil, several occupations contributed
to the economy--nomads moving livestock to the sparse forage in
the desert, pearling, and fishing--but none of these occupations
provided much beyond subsistence. Once the government began receiving
oil revenues, the contribution of other sectors to national income
was reduced still further (see table 7, Appendix). Economic growth
and welfare measures since World War II drew workers away from
historical pursuits and lessened the role of agriculture. In the
late 1980s, fewer than 10,000 people were employed in agriculture.
The government invested some money in developing hydroponics to
increase vegetable production. Kuwait's most important crops in
1989 were tomatoes (40,000 tons), dried onions (25,000 tons),
melons (7,000 tons), dates (1,000 tons), and smaller amounts of
cucumbers and eggplants. Some of these crops are grown hydroponically.
Although Kuwait manages to export some vegetables, its agricultural
potential remains limited.
Fishing provides a minor but important economic contribution.
Much of the fishing for the local market was historically from
small boats, including many native dhows. Large-scale commercial
fishing is mostly confined to the United Fisheries of Kuwait,
which operates a fleet of vessels as far afield as the Indian
Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. United Fisheries is
a large, international firm that processes and exports part of
its catch, particularly frozen shrimp. However, in the 1970s overfishing
in the gulf by many states considerably reduced catches of fish
and shrimp. In 1989 Kuwait had a catch of approximately 4,700
tons of fish and 3,000 tons of shrimp and prawns. In the late
1980s, war and environmental damage, including oil spills, also
reduced the attractiveness of the gulf fishing industry.
Data as of January 1993