During the late 1970s, the Salvadoran government shifted the emphasis of agricultural policy away from traditional export commodities toward increased production of staple crops for domestic consumption. Food security, defined as the ability to produce enough food domestically, was a goal of the government in the 1980s, but one that proved increasingly elusive. The area under cereals cultivation declined from 422,000 hectares in 1979 to 390,000 hectares in 1986 because farms located in conflict zones were abandoned. The shortfall was made up by an increase in imports. Salvadoran food imports totaled only 75,000 tons in 1974; by 1986, however, this figure had risen to 212,000 tons. In response to the insurgency, food aid was increased. In 1974-75, for example, El Salvador received only 4,000 tons of food aid; by 1985-86 this figure had risen to 278,000 tons.
Maize production declined steadily from 517,000 tons in 1979 to 391,000 tons in 1986. The area for maize cultivation also declined from 281,000 hectares to 243,000 hectares, while yields shrank from 1.8 tons per hectare to 1.5 tons per hectare. Rice production, however, remained fairly steady. Salvadoran farmers maintained approximately 15,000 hectares in rice from 1979 to 1986 (rising to 17,000 hectares in 1985); harvests rose from 56,000 tons in 1979 to 69,000 tons in 1985, only to drop to 53,000 tons in 1986. Sorghum production and cultivation also declined slightly. In 1979 farmers devoted 126,000 hectares to the cultivation of sorghum, compared with 119,000 hectares in 1986. Sorghum harvests declined from 145,000 tons in 1979 to 135,000 tons in 1986.
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