Despite these handicaps, the United States Department of Agriculture estimated that within Eastern Europe Bulgaria was second only to Hungary in agricultural trade surpluses through 1987. After that time, however, agricultural output dropped so far that the country could no longer feed its own people. In 1990 the first rationing and shortages since World War II were the most obvious indications of this situation. Because of domestic shortages, export of several agricultural products was banned in 1990.
Two long-term policies strongly determined priorities in Bulgarian agricultural production after 1960. First, livestock was promoted at the expense of crop cultivation, mainly to meet export demand. Between 1970 and 1988, the share of livestock in agricultural production rose from 35.3 to 55.6 percent. As a result, less land was available for crops in that period. Pig and poultry production increased the most, but large numbers of sheep also were raised. The second policy was a shift away from industrial crops (primarily tobacco and cotton), toward production of fruit (most notably apples), vegetables (most notably tomatoes), and grapes. Bulgaria remained an important exporter of tobacco, however, averaging 65 percent of East European exports of that crop in the 1980s. Grain production concentrated on wheat, corn, and barley, crops which are vulnerable to weather conditions. Poor harvests in 1985 and 1986 led to grain imports of 1.8 and 1.5 million tons, respectively. Sugar beets, potatoes, sunflower seeds, and soybeans also were important crops at the end of the 1980s. In 1990 Bulgaria was the world's largest exporter of attar of roses, used in making perfume.
The Role of Private Plots
After 1970 the only consistent contribution to agricultural production growth was family farming on private plots leased from the agricultural complexes. These plots could not be bought or sold or worked by hired labor, but their yield belonged to the tenant. In 1971 special measures were instituted to increase the number and the availability of personal plots. Beginning in 1974, peasant households were permitted to lease additional plots and given free access to fertilizer, fodder seed, and equipment belonging to their agricultural complexes. To encourage this practice, the government extended loans and waived income taxes. More importantly, delivery prices increased for agricultural products. In the mid-1970s, a reduced work week for urban workers and relaxed requirements for plot leasing encouraged weekend cultivation of personal plots by the nonagricultural population. Plot size limits were removed in 1977.
By 1982 personal plots accounted for 25 percent of Bulgaria's agricultural output and farm worker income. In 1988 personal plots accounted for large shares of basic agricultural goods: corn, 43.5 percent; tomatoes, 36.8 percent; potatoes, 61.5 percent; apples, 24.8 percent; grapes, 43.2 percent; meat, 40.8 percent; milk, 25.2 percent; eggs, 49.4 percent; and honey, 86 percent. The sales from plots to town markets meant that despite low overall agricultural growth rates in the 1980s, the urban food supply actually improved in many areas during the early and mid-1980s.
EconomyMain article: Economy of Bulgaria
Sofia, the financial heart of the countryBulgaria has an industrialized, open free-market economy, with a large, moderately advanced private sector and a number of strategic state-owned enterprises. The World Bank classifies it as an "upper-middle-income economy". Bulgaria has experienced rapid economic growth in recent years[update], even though it continues to rank as the lowest-income member state of the EU. According to Eurostat data, Bulgarian PPS GDP per capita stood at 43 per cent of the EU average in 2008. The Bulgarian lev is the country's national currency. The lev is pegged to the euro at a rate of 1.95583 leva for 1 euro.
In 2008, GDP (PPP) was estimated at $95.2 billion, with a per capita value of $13,100. The economy relies primarily on industry, although the services sector increasingly contributes to GDP growth. Bulgaria produces a significant amount of manufactures and raw materials such as iron, copper, gold, bismuth, coal, electronics, refined petroleum fuels, vehicle components, firearms and construction materials. The total labor force amounts to 3.2 million people. Since a hyperinflation crisis in 1996/1997, inflation and unemployment rates have fallen to 7.2% and 6.3%, respectively, in 2008. Corruption in the public administration and a weak judiciary have also hampered Bulgaria's economic development.
Wind turbines near cape Kaliakra. Bulgaria aims at producing 16 % of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.Amidst the Financial crisis of 2007–2010, unemployment rates increased to 9.1% in 2009, while GDP growth contracted from 6.3% (2008) to −4.9% (2009). The crisis had a negative impact mostly on industry, with a 10% decline in the national industrial production index, a 31% drop in mining, and a 60% drop in "ferrous and metal production". The International Monetary Fund predicts a 0.2% overall growth for the Bulgarian economy in 2010, and 2% in 2011.
Although it has relatively few reserves of fossil fuels, Bulgaria's well-developed energy sector and strategic geographical location make it a key European energy hub. A single nuclear power station with two active 1,000 MW reactors satisfies 34% of the country's energy needs, and another nuclear power station with a projected capacity of 2,000 MW is under construction. Thermal power stations, such as those at the Maritsa Iztok Complex, also have a large share in electricity production. Recent years[update] have seen a rapid increase in electricity production from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Large-scale prospects for wind energy development have spurred the construction of numerous wind farms, making Bulgaria one of the fastest-growing wind energy producers in the world.
A sunflower field in Dobrudzha, one of the most fertile regions in BulgariaBulgaria's mining industry is a significant contributor to economic growth and is worth $760 mln. In Europe, the country ranks as the 3rd-largest copper producer, 6th-largest zinc producer, and 9th-largest coal producer, and is the 9th-largest bismuth producer in the world. Ferrous metallurgy, including steel and pig iron production, takes place mostly in Kremikovtsi, Pernik and Debelt.
About 14% of the total industrial production relates to machine building, and 20% of the workforce is employed in this field.
In contrast with the industrial sector, agriculture in Bulgaria has marked a decline since the beginning of the 2000s, with agricultural production in 2008 amounting to only 66% of that between 1999 and 2001. Overall, Bulgaria's agricultural sector has dwindled since 1990, with cereal and vegetable yields dropping with nearly 40% by 1999. A five-year modernization and development program was launched in 2007, aimed at strengthening the sector by investing a total of 3.2 billion euro. Specialized equipment amounts to some 25,000 tractors and 5,500 combine harvesters, with a fleet of light aircraft.
Bulgaria remains a major European producer of agricultural commodities such as tobacco (3rd) and raspberries (12th).