Estonia is essentially an agricultural country which, thanks to its humid climate, also lends itself well to livestock farming. The exploitation of forests is also of considerable importance. 32% of the total territory is arable land and 58% of the total population is dedicated to agriculture. The most fruitful land is found in the morainic hills of the south-east.
In accordance with the cold and humid climate, the crop is mainly represented by rye, barley, oats and potatoes. The pre-war averages are already, again, almost reached. The cultivation of flax, which already had a great deal of importance under Russia, has become very popular today.
Agricultural production can be seen from the following table:
Livestock farming has so resumed, despite the war and the revolution, that it has now reached a truly remarkable importance, as shown in the following table:
Fishery products are relevant; however Estonia imports (mainly from England) the herring which is missing in the Baltic Sea. The export of fish is directed to Germany, Sweden, Poland (salmon, eel, pike, “kilu” – sardella species -) and Russia. As mentioned, the forest industry holds a notable place, in fact 20.5% of the total territory is covered with woods, of which 72.3% are conifers. The export of timber is mainly directed to England, Holland and France.
The mining industry is not without importance in the economic life of Estonia. Slate and oil shale (Kukersite) come to the fore. The shales give a yellowish-brown, soft, friable marly product, rich in organic substances and are highly appreciated, not only as a fuel (in railways and factories), but also as a means for the production of gas, and for the numerous products distillation (tar, oil, coloring materials, medicines, soaps, etc.). The supply of Kukersite (so called from the place, Kukruse, where it was first found in large quantities), on a territory of 3000 sq. Km., Reaches about 3 billion tons, and, based on the current exploitation figures, should suffice for several centuries.
The extraction of peat, which takes place on 676,800 hectares or 14.7% of the total area of the country, is of considerable magnitude. The phosphorite deposits are found in the northern part of Estonia, the gypsum deposits in the SE part.
Industrial life is concentrated in industries dependent on agriculture, cattle breeding and forest exploitation, as well as in mining and textile industries (Narva, Tallinn, Pärnu, Viljandi, Tartu, etc.). The textile industry holds first place and is followed by the food industry; then come the paper and timber industries. The net value of production in thousands of crowns in companies with more than 20 employees is (July 1930):
The total amount of the industrial population employed in companies with more than 20 employees was 33,185 people.
Trade in Estonia is not significant and the population employed in it barely reaches 4%. Despite its agricultural character, Estonia imports foodstuffs (wheat), and exports textiles, paper, wood, animal products. About a third of exports go to England and about as many imports come from Germany. Comparing the most important export and import goods, it appears that about 4/5 of the total value are represented by dairy products or by goods or objects made of wood, paper, fiber or textile products, while the import consists of raw materials raw materials for industries, in semi-finished industrial products and in foodstuffs. Estonian traffic in millions of Estonian kroons can be seen in the following table:
In 1929 20.8% of imports (value) consisted of grains and flours, 11.3 in raw cotton, 5.9 in sugar, 4.2 in wool. In the first place among exports in 1930 is butter (32.7% of the total value), then wood (14.2), linen (4.1), cottons (13.3), cellulose (7, 5). As for imports, then, it appears that in 1930 the largest purchases were made in Germany (28.3% of the total value), the United States (12.7), Russia (9.3), England (8.6), Poland (8.5) and Sweden (4.8). The highest sales in England (32.3), Germany (30.1), Denmark (7.7), Russia (4.5), France (4.2), Sweden (4.0), Finland (2, 3), Latvia (2.6).
The trade balance, which was active from 1925 to 1927, is now almost in balance. In addition to foreign trade, transit trade is of the utmost importance for Estonia, especially in relations with Russia. The merchant shipping is modest, 106,180 tons. (iJanuary 1931), made up of 443 ships, of which 247 sailing and 93 steam powered, 15 motor ships and 33 sailing ships; however, the Estonian fleet is the largest fleet in the three Baltic states. In 1930 1722 large tonnage ships (871.720 tonnes) and 1457 coastal ships (95.816 tonnes) entered the port of Tallinn which exchanged goods for 690 thousand tonnes. and carried 71,828 passengers. Pre-war traffic was somewhat higher (1913: ships for 949,407 tonnes). The German flag is in first place (34.5% 1929), followed by Estonian (18.7). Decimal metric weights and metric measures are used in Estonia.