The agriculture of the BRD was in critical condition in 1945 due to the neglect it had suffered in the last period of the war. Furthermore, the trade in agricultural products was damaged by the barriers existing between the different areas of occupation. But for the BRD economy the biggest drawback was the detachment of the eastern territories which traditionally represented the agricultural regions, while those of the west had and still have a mainly industrial physiognomy. Agriculture in the federal republic has rapidly recovered from the crisis, but overall the country needs to import large quantities of agricultural products mainly to meet the food needs of its dense, high-standard of living population.
To give an idea of this situation, it can be recalled that in the Germany of 1937 there were over 21 million hectares of arable land in front of a population of 60 million residents, while in 1953 the federal republic had eight million hectares of arable land to feed 51 million residents.
Currently 35% of the land area of the federal republic belongs to arable land and tree crops; 23% to meadows and pastures; 29% to the woods. The agricultural holdings of the federal republic reached the number of about two million, that is 64% of those existing in the Germany of 1939, but they comprise only half of the agricultural area exploited at that time. Their average size is just 6.8 ha. The fractionation and fragmentation of the property, with the consequent drawbacks of underproduction and rural exodus, have led the federal government to implement an active land management operation, which affects about half of the production area. On the other hand, the land reform, although limited to the unbundling of properties over 100 ha (equal to 8% of the agricultural area), has also made its fruits felt. The same applies to other measures, such as eg. the reduction of the tax burdens of farmers in 1955 and the granting of large credits in their favor. In this way, agricultural and livestock production has exceeded the pre-war level in all sectors and the agricultural economy of the federal republic stands out for its intensity and rationality, as evidenced by its high consumption of fertilizers (third place in Europe after Belgium and the Netherlands) and its strong mechanization (450,000 tractors in 1955).
In cereal production, rye and wheat stand out, each with a yield of 38 million q (1957). That prevails in the northern regions, this one in the center-south. Barley (25 million q) and oats (22) follow in importance. But in Germany, as is well known, the potato acquires particular importance, which in the federal republic gave a production of 263 million quintals in 1957. Also noteworthy are the cultivation of sugar beet (14.4 million q of sugar in 1958), tobacco (217,000 q in 1957), flax and hops. Viticulture provides quality products, but is limited, for climatic reasons, to the western region (Rhine valley).
The zootechnical patrimony of the federal republic (1956) consists of 11.5 million cattle, half of which are cows with a high milk yield; 1.2 million sheep; almost as many equines; of 14.6 million pigs.
In 1953 it was estimated that the production of the Federal Republic satisfied 3/4 of the needs of bread cereals, for about 5/7 that of cereals for livestock feed, for 5/6 that of eggs and entirely the need for potatoes., sugar, meat and milk.
The forest area of the Federal Republic covers 6.9 million ha. It belongs for 40% to private individuals and for the rest, in equal parts, to the state and to collective properties. Two thirds of the forest area is coniferous, one third broadleaf. In the federal republic there are on average 14 ha of forest per 100 residents, while in the pre-war Germany of 30%), so that national consumption, which is around 35 million m 3, can be covered to the extent of 60% by domestic production.
The fishing fleet, decimated by the war, has once again reached the level of 1939 for inshore vessels, but still remains below it for deep-sea vessels. The vessels of the Federal Republic exploit the waters of the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic and the Barents Sea. The total product of coastal and deep-sea fishing was 700,000 t in 1953. To this must be added approximately 25,000 t of freshwater fish per year. Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven, Hamburg and Kiel are the main fishing ports. The consumption of fish reached 12 kg per resident in 1953. per year, thus returning to the pre-war level.
The industrial sector absorbed in 1953 a complex of 5,751,000 workers, employed in 50,000 companies, of which only about 2000 employed more than 500 workers each. Nonetheless, the latter companies as a whole comprise roughly one third of the workers in the Federal Republic.
Large companies with more than 1000 employees are mainly found in the coal and steel sector and in the mechanical, chemical, electrical and textile industries. The abolition of “trusts” and “cartels”, decreed by the occupying Powers at the end of the war, on the one hand, and the development of medium-sized industries together with the transplantation of companies of refugees from the east, on the other hand, have the weight of large-scale industry in the West German economy eased. But, since 1952, has given up decartelization, dimodoché have recovered large Konzern, which are groups of establishments belonging to the same branch of production or different branches, but related, as well as signs, ie agreements of different companies for sale of certain products. Konzern it will suffice to recall the “Rheinstahl Union” (Union of Rhenish Steel), established in 1955.
Of all the economic activities of the federal republic, industry ranks first in terms of the number of employees, the volume of business and the value of the exports it feeds. Suffice it to think that in 1954, out of a total of 5.26 billion dollars of exports, industrial products, essentially represented by 4/5 of finished products, were worth 5.14 billion. If at the same time the federal republic had imported industrial products for $ 2.9 billion, half of this value was represented by raw materials and just a sum of 0.76 billion by finished products, so that the federal republic (unique case on the continent Europe) exports finished industrial products worth more than five times that of similar products it imports.
Coal production, the foundation of the BRD’s industrial economy, is around 150 million tonnes (1958). It comes mainly from the Ruhr basin, to a lesser extent from that of the Saar (16 million tonnes) and from Aachen. Lignite (95 million tonnes in 1956) is extracted for 9/10 from the district of Cologne, mainly in open-pit cultivation, the rest at Helmstedt and in small mines in Hesse, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Oil (4,428,000 t in 1958) sees the federal republic in first place among Western European producers. Mining takes place mainly in the Ems basin, near the Dutch border, and in the Hanover region. Methane is also extracted in Emsland and Lower Saxony, the most important field of which is that of Rehden (181 million m 3 out of a total of about 320 in 1956).
About half of the electricity produced in the BRD (97 billion kWh in 1958) is obtained from coal, a quarter from lignite and a quarter from water. Hydroelectricity naturally predominates in the south and south-west, where the waters of the Alps and the Black Forest can be exploited.
The iron and steel industry, mainly located in the Ruhr and Lower Rhineland, produced in 1958 a total of 26.2 million t of steel and 19.8 million t of cast iron and ferroalloys, ensuring BRD the third place in the world, for both voices, after the USA and the USSR. The need for raw materials is mostly covered by internal resources; not so much, however, from the exploitation of the German mines (Siegerwald, Braunschweig, etc.), which supplied 3.8 million tonnes in 1958, as from the utilization of scrap.
In terms of number of employees and production value, mechanics represents one of the main branches of the BRD industry, which brings together more than 70% of its workforce in North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. It belongs – with an export share of 32% – to the group of the most intensely exporting industries in the Federal Republic. The automotive industry stands out in its field, which produced 1,494,653 motor vehicles in 1958, of which 1,306,854 were motor vehicles. Half of these come from the Volkswagen factories, while 2/5 come from the four big houses Borgward, Opel, Daimler-Benz and Ford. “Vespa” motorcycles are manufactured in Augusta; in Heilbronn “Fiat-NSU” cars.
The shipbuilding industry (1,458,700 gross tons launched in 1958) has its main plants in Hamburg, Bremen, Kiel, Emden, Flensburg.
Alongside the manufacture of machines, the processing of metal objects and tools represents another notable branch of the mechanical industry. Among the 3,000 companies of this type, mainly medium and small, the ones in Solingen for cutlery and those in the Siegerland valleys for the processing of tin are traditional. About one third of these productions are exported.
The electrotechnical industry, which in pre-war Germany was half concentrated in Berlíno, now derives just 1/10 of the total BRD production from West Berlin. Important in this sector are the large companies of Siemens of Berlin and of “AEG” (“General Electricity Company”).
Precision mechanics and optics are widespread throughout the federal republic, like electrotechnics, but nevertheless they have some points of regional concentration. These are represented: for precision mechanics, first of all from Württemberg-Baden and the Nuremberg area; for optics, from Munich, Stuttgart, Braunschweig and Wetzlar; for wristwatches, from Pforzheim. In this sector too, exports are very considerable, exceeding a third of production.
In the chemical sector it is noted that the BRD, despite having inherited 60% of the production capacity of the pre-war Germany, had to make a development effort for basic products, which previously came mainly from the eastern regions. The heavy chemical industry developed in the north and north-west of the Ruhr, near the coal fields, as well as near Mannheim, Hanover, Frankfurt s. M. In addition to coal, the fields of potassium salts (2 million t in 1957) and sodium chloride (Württemberg, Bavaria) also supply raw materials to the chemical industry. The federal republic produces annually (1957) 2.7 million t of sulfuric acid, 183,000 t of hydrochloric acid, 648,000 t of caustic soda, one million t of nitrogen fertilizers.
The wood and paper industry, having to use imported raw materials, also due to the loss of eastern forest areas, has focused mainly on quality. It is mainly located in North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Bavaria and southwestern Germany
The textile, clothing and leather industry represents the largest industrial group in the sederal republic (600,000 employees). The traditional fashion centers of Western Europe, among which Düsseldorf stands out, have seen their importance grow for the insertion of companies of refugees from Berlin.
The food industry employs a total of 222,000 workers (1952), of which 39,000 in the dairy sector, 15,900 in the milling sector, and 46,900 in the confectionery sector. The production of wine (1957) is around two million hl, that of beer about 40 (also in 1957), so that for the brewery the BRD contends with Great Britain for second place in the world after the United States.
Flying over other particular branches of federal indusiria, it still deserves to remember that Western Germany comes in third place in the world, after the United States and the USSR, for the production of cement (19.4 million tons in 1958), a product that is a very significant index of a country’s economic development.
The foreign trade of the BRD recorded in 1958 a value of just over 31 billion marks for imports and almost 37 billion for exports. The main supplier countries are, in order, the United States, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium-Luxembourg, Sweden and Great Britain. The main customers are the Netherlands, the United States, Belgium-Luxembourg, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria.
The Federal Railways (1987) measure a total of 30,973 km. The road network has 132,898, of which 2408 are motorways and 24,423 are national roads. At the end of 1958, nearly four million cars were in circulation, 3.3 million of which were cars. The merchant fleet includes 2379 ships with a combined tonnage of over four million t (1958). The main seaport is Hamburg (27.4 million tonnes in 1956), followed by Bremen (13.7). The airlines are managed by “Lufthansa”, which in 1957 served a network of 58,000 km (16 million km flown and 488 million passenger-km).