Due to unfavorable growing conditions over much of Syria, only about 30% of the land are cultivated. Much of the tilled land needs to be irrigated, even in regions that receive large amounts of rainfall, because most of the rain falls during the winter, rather than in the growing season. Soil exhaustion, due to over-use and insufficient use of fertilizers, is also a problem.
Syria manages to produce a wide variety of crops, nonetheless both for domestic use and for export. Cotton was the major export crop until the oil boom in the mid-1970s and once accounted for more than half the country's export revenues. Wheat and barley are also important crops. Others include olives, tobacco, citrus fruits, vegetables and sugar beet. Livestock mainly of sheep and goats, which are herded in the mountain areas.
The best farmland is to be found in the coastal region and in the river valleys.