In the primary sector, the low production is linked to the use of agricultural technology and extensive livestock, the inadequate agricultural equipment, the vagaries of the weather, the poor organization of the rural world, as well as the degradation the environment. For these reasons, Chad regularly calls for international food aid to meet the regional deficits recorded each year.
On 39millions hectares of arable land (30% National hectares) only 2 million are cultivated annually among which only 7000 hectares are irrigated on 5.6millions irrigable. The groundwater resources are important.
In the Saharan desert, which receives less than 50mm of rain per year; oasis system, which combines production of dates and irrigated subsistence agriculture (citrus, vines, millet, wheat and alfalfa). There are 1.5millions of date palms that produce approximately 25000 tons of dates annually.
The pastoral zone Saharan Sahel, which receives 50 to 300 mm of rain per year is hardly conducive to agriculture. The traditional irrigation from groundwater little deeper allows a culture of subsistence combined with rainfed millet culture on the sand dunes.
The agro-pastoral zone Sahelian, which receives between 300 and 800 mm of rain per year, developed a type of extensive rain-fed agriculture. Farmers associate in the same field cereals (millet and sorghum), oilseeds (peanuts) and legumes. In the polders of Kanem, it also cultivates wheat and maize.
The most productive area of the country on a agricultural point of view is certainly the Sudanian zone. It receives an annual rainfall from 8000 to 1200 mm and above. Food production here is diverse, combining cereals (millet, sorghum, maize), oilseeds (cowpeas, groundnuts, taro), fruit and vegetables. Finally, it is here that one grows cotton, sugar cane and tobacco. These crops annuities can maximize the region.
The main cash crops have yields that vary widely depending on the year, particularly depending on climatic hazards.
Cotton represents an important economic and social stake because two million people lives on it, of which 350 000 are cotton producers. This is the first formal source of export. The production and purchase of cotton seeds are provided by peasant organizations. Steps are taken on time, like the increase in April 2004 of the purchase price to producers to offset the gradual withdrawal of peasants in the sector. The CotonTchad is the exclusive operator of the sector.
The domestic production of sugar does not provide domestic demand, particularly at the end of the 2003/2004, a marked decrease from the previous season (-200%). In 2000, privatization of the national sugar company, took place on exemplary manner.
However, the increased production expected has not yet been achieved. This is the second agricultural product exploited industrially.
The peanut dominates the oilseed sector with 80% of total production. It represents 10% of agricultural production in the Sahelian zone against 25% in Sudan zone, 60% of groundnut and 30% of sesame are marketed, but their transformation is still a hand work for women.
In the Sahelian zone, traditional plantations of arabic gum (used abroad in the food, pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetics industries) provide for about 200 000 people. This culture is the third largest source of foreign exchange revenue for the state. The Chad ranks as the second largest world exporter, with a sold production of 16 000 tonnes in 2003. The sector has an important potential for development by simply extending its area of collection, currently limited by the poor condition of roads.
The cultivation of brown tobacco, although marginal (34 tons), has been in progress over the past two decades. The tobacco is sold to the manufacture of tobacco (MCT).
Finally, Shea, whose nuts are used in the form of butter (which is used locally as food or fuel oil, and abroad as a cosmetic moisturizer) represents a great potential.
Only 5% of the 60 million trees are counted exploited. Other parts of the Lake Chad region have some interesting opportunities. The SODELAC tries to improve the production of spirulina, a blue algae called “dié” by the local population, which grows in the polders, salt marshes of the lake and surrounding waters, rich in natron (sodium carbonate). It is used for food (locally is a rich source of protein for the population), the cosmetics industry and dietetic foods. The Chad is currently the world's leading producer (ahead of India and Mexico), with a production of excellent quality.
Livestock is an important asset of Chad who owns, with 16.3 million heads, one of the largest herds in the region. Livestock represents 15% of GDP, not counting the large informal sector. As a major breeding Sahelian country, Chad is placed on figures just behind Mali. The opportunities to Europe, however, are limited by the absence of slaughterhouse with European standards. The rehabilitation of the Facha slaughterhouse in N'djamena, only refrigerated slaughterhouse in the country, opens up prospects for recovery of the export market. The farming sector is a major socio-economic capital, which still has good prospects.
Fishing is a sector which occupies 150 000 people of whom about 25 000 professionals only pulling their resources of fishing. The quantities of fish caught oscillate around 50 000 tonnes for local consumption, 30 000 tonnes for export, mainly in the dried or smoked form, to Cameroon or Nigeria.
The primary sector participated in the 2004 growth, with an increase of cash crops whose contribution would be 0.9 percentage points showing the increase of 20% of cotton production (180 thousand tons during 2004/2005 harvest against 150 a year earlier).
Livestock should contribute to growth for 0.1 percentage points under the impetus of natural increase of livestock, maintained by the good condition of pasture and satisfactory health coverage.
The productivity of the primary sector is also dependent on the continued deterioration of the environment. This dependence is exacerbated by the non-mastering of water, impotence face to nuisance to crops, deforestation abuses, ill-timed burns, reducing surface and duration of fallow land, wind and water erosion, contribute to the slow but inexorable depletion of soil. The immensity of the territory, the complexity of the problems and limited resources put into works have generated so far only limited answers in time and space to have a significant impact on the process of desertification. We must also say that, generally speaking, people are not really aware of the need for sound environmental management.
For years the priority has been to improve the conditions and techniques for storing crops and infrastructure development to ensure the processing and marketing of products.
The food chains are poorly developed: there is no industrial unit which processes the cattle industry, meat, milk, hides and skin and eggs, to the point that the export of live cattle remains the dominant activity in this sector. On the broad range of agricultural products, only the cotton and sugar sectors are quite developed. Many other channels remain to be developed to expand the productive base of the country and enjoy the sub-regional market for exports of manufactured products, an area in which the country is completely absent at the moment. The development of a processing sector less sensitive to climate will be better able to ensure steady growth. The existing opportunities are numerous, provided that the regulatory and legal environment still unattractive despite the efforts already made to create a climate conducive to investment.