The economy of the Comoros is primarily agricultural, with arable land comprising 45 percent of the total land area. Among the chief crops in 2004, in tons, were manioc, 58,000; coconuts, 77,000; bananas, 65,000; sweet potatoes, 5,500; rice, 17,000; corn, 4,000; and cloves, 3,000. Other crops include sugarcane, sisal, peppers, spices, coffee, and various perfume plants such as ylang-ylang, abelmosk, lemon grass, jasmine, and citronella.
The chief export crops are vanilla, cloves, ylang-ylang, and copra. The Comoros, including Mayotte, account for about 80% of world production of ylang-ylang essence, which is used in some perfumes. Marketed exports in 2004 included 44 tons of dried vanilla, valued at nearly $18.8 million, or 47% of agricultural exports.
Food demand is not met by domestic production, so the Comoros is highly dependent on imported foods, especially rice. Over half of all foodstuff s are imported, and about 50% of the government’s annual budget is spent on importing food.
Agricultural productivity is extremely low, and cultivation methods are rudimentary. Fertilizer is seldom used by smallholders. About 20 percent of the cultivated land belongs to company estates; 20 percent to indigenous land owners who live in towns and pay laborers to cultivate their holdings; and 60 percent to village reserves allotted according to customary law. Agriculture contributed about 51 percent to GDP in 2002.