Libya Economic Conditions Between 1936 and 1959

By | December 24, 2021

Despite the unfavorable physical environment, the Libyan economy is always based, mainly, on agriculture and livestock, in those areas that are susceptible to use and which were already in the process of progressive enhancement in the last period of domination Italian, but which subsequently contracted for the expulsion of the Italian colonists. This exodus was total in Cyrenaica, where the ten agricultural villages created in Jebel between 1936 and 1939 by the Colonization Authority of Libya have been abandoned and have largely gone into ruins, or are used in some way by the indigenous, while the sixteen villages that arose at the same time in Tripolitania remained essentially in efficiency. Currently the area cultivated by Italian farmers amounts to about 210. 000 ha, or about 55% of what is most suitable for agricultural use (383,000 ha). The concessions deriving from Italian or private government concessions have a width between 25 and 50 ha, and for the cultivation technique and the goodness of the land they certainly give a strong contribution to the local agricultural economy; also noteworthy is the contribution of those areas which had been the object of direct state colonization. As regards the Libyan territory as a whole, surveys carried out in 1945 showed that the area that can be used in some way for crops and livestock is only 14,125,000 ha, of which 10 million in Tripolitania, 4 million in Cyrenaica and only 125,000 ha in Fezzàn. These are therefore areas which, taken together, make up about 8% of the total territorial surface.

In particular, of the 14 million hectares of agricultural and forestry surface, just over 11 million are of land suitable for grazing (8 million ha in Tripolitania, 3.1 million ha in Cyrenaica), while 2.1 million represent land suitable for semi-nomadic agriculture (1.6 million ha in Tripolitania and 500,000 ha in Cyrenaica) and only about 550,000 ha (to be more exact, 400,000 in Tripolitania and 145,000 in Cyrenaica) are of land suitable for permanent agricultural use. To this must be added 103,000 ha of forest area (3000 ha in Tripolitania and 100,000 in Cyrenaica), 700 ha of irrigated gardens in the oases (200 ha and 500 ha, respectively, in the two provinces), and finally 134,000 ha of non-irrigated palm groves., most of them in the Fezzàn. Of the approximately 550. 000 ha usable for permanent crops, almost 280,000 ha are actually cultivated in Tripolitania, including arable land and woody agricultural crops, and just over 50,000 in Cyrenaica. Among the cereals, barley and wheat are always of pre-eminent importance, in the northern part of the territory, wheat and millet in the southern part. The pre-war production of barley of 400,000 q per year is now around double, with some years of exceptional yield, as in 1949, when about 1,800,000 q of it were harvested. On the other hand, the wheat harvest has decreased, which from 250,000 q per year on average in the period immediately preceding 1940 has dropped to 120-130,000 q per year today, mainly due to the fact that the product of Cyrenaica has been reduced to about 1/3. For Libya 2015, please check

The olive groves, largely enlarged by the Italians (and the number of plants is no less than 3.5 million), still have considerable economic importance, especially in Tripolitania, where there are 16,000 ha (about 40,000 q of oil in the crop 1957). Still in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, viticulture is still developed on over 5000 ha (4000 and 1000, respectively), with a total production of around 40,000 hl. The prohibition of Muslims from consuming wine has helped to reduce the cultivation of the vine, introduced by the Italians, and which already had about 20 million plants, of which 85% in Tripolitania. Still interesting is the cultivation of tobaccos, of oriental varieties, in Tigrinna, in the Tripolitan Jebel, with a yield that now fluctuates around 12-14,000 q per year. In the’ indigenous food The importance of the date is always remarkable, the production of which fluctuates around 400,000 q per year. Among the recently introduced crops citrus fruits stand out, in Tripolitania by now quite widespread.

Breeding resumed after the war: in Tripolitania in 1957 there were 47,000 cattle (20,000 in 1949), 574,000 sheep (208,000), 575,000 goats (202,000). In Cyrenaica the livestock patrimony in 1956 consisted of 33,000 cattle (31,000 in 1949), 545,000 sheep (363,000) and 524,000 goats (436,000). Camels, which increased in Tripolitania from 66,000 to 81,000 in the period 1949-57, in Cyrenaica had increased from 22,500 to 76,000 in the period 1949-56. There were also, in 1956, 18,000 horses and 50,000 donkeys throughout Libya. The production of wool and skins is remarkable.

The salt extraction activity in 1955 yielded 15,000 tons in the salt pans of Tripoli and Bengasi, already modernly equipped by the Italians; sulfur is extracted in Cyrenaica and sponges are fished along various stretches of the Libyan coasts. At the end of 1957, the first discovery of an oil field took place, followed by another in July 1958, and, in June 1959, by yet another, in Zelten, in the Cyrenaic Gebel, at a depth of about 1680 m. However, many exploration permits have been granted so far. The processing industry remains modest, with part of the activities existing at the time when the Libya was Italian. There is a significant increase in the production of electrical energy, of thermal origin: in the interval 1956-57 it passed, for example, from 67 to 75 million kWh.

There is therefore a strong recent increase in imports, in the face of a relatively modest increase in exports, with a consequent serious increase in the trade deficit. In 1957 the countries that most exported to Libya were: Italy (27.4%), Great Britain (21%), USA (16%), Federal Republic of Germany (8.1%), France (5.3%)). Exports of Libyan products were mainly directed to: Italy (58.3%), Great Britain (17%), Egypt (9.2%), Malta (3.6%), Federal Republic of Germany (3.5%)).

Libya Breeding