What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Latvia?

Huge pile of chopped natural wooden logs on a sawmill in Latvia
Huge pile of chopped natural wooden logs on a sawmill in Latvia

Latvia is a country in Northern Europe located on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania. It has been referred to as a Baltic State since its independence. The country has an area of approximately 24,938 square miles and shares a maritime border with Sweden. It is also bordered to the east by Russia, to the southeast by Belarus, to the south by Lithuania, and to the north by Estonia. Latvia has a population of about 2 million residents. Geographically, much of the country (98%) lies under 656 feet elevation. Latvia was divided into three regions by the ice age; Middle lowland, morainic Eastern upland, and morainic Western upland. The country experiences a temperate seasonal climate characterized by longer daylight hours in the summer than winter. For instance, it is still pitch dark at 0900 hours in December with daylight disappearing by 1600 hours.

Overview Of Natural Resources Of Latvia

Non-metallic mineral resources such as clay, limestone, gypsum, dolomite, peat, and other construction material are some of the important natural resources of Latvia. Forest resource is the most outstanding natural resource of the country, claiming approximately 52% of the total land area. Apart from forest cover, the country is crisscrossed by over 12,000 rivers with a total length of approximately 38,400 square kilometers. However, only 17 rivers are at least 100 kilometers long. Latvia also has a coastline measuring 531 kilometers along the Baltic Sea. Here are the major resources of Latvia discussed in detail.


Latvia is one of the most forested countries in the EU, with the forest covering approximately 52% of the country’s territory. The highest forest coverage is in the region of Ventspils while the least forested region is the Bauska. Almost half of the forests in Latvia are owned by the state. The forests are divided into three major categories depending on their importance and functions. The first category of forests is the protected forests located mainly in national parks, state reserves, and forest parks. These forests account for 12.6% of all the forests in the country. The second category of forests is the restricted management forests, accounting for 38.5% of the total forests. These forests are considered significant to environmental protection. The final category is the exploitable forests which are the majority, accounting for 48.9% of the total forests. The three forest categories collectively have more than 700 million trees. Timber processing is one of the largest industrial sectors in Latvia, accounting for about 20% of the country’s export. The forestry resource is managed by the Ministry of Forest of the Republic of Latvia.

Rivers And Lakes

Latvia has numerous lakes and rivers, ranking it 4th in the European Union for freshwater resources. The country boasts of 20,000 cubic meters of freshwater per person. Latvia has more than 12,000 rivers and over 3,000 small lakes. Of the rivers, only 17 are longer than 60 miles. The rivers of Latvia collectively have a total length of approximately 38,400 kilometers. The largest river is the Daugava River which was once an important route and has been used by several groups of people including the locals, Europeans, Russians, and Vikings for war and trade. The River rises from Valdai Hills and flows through Russia, Belarus, and Latvia before emptying into the Gulf of Riga. Daugava River has a total length of 630 miles and a total catchment area of 33,900 square miles. The other major rivers of Latvia include Gauja, Lielupe, Salaca, and Venta Rivers. The biggest lake in Latvia is Lake Lubans, located at the center of Eastern Latvia lowlands. Other notable lakes include Razna, Dridzis, Engure, Aluksne, Bakans, and Ruson-See.


Latvia has a well-developed fishing and fish processing tradition. The coastal population has always been involved in fishing. The Exclusive Economic Zone of Latvia covers about 10% of the Baltic Sea, providing the country with enormous fish resources. The fisheries sector is one of the major parts of the national economy and one of the few sectors of the national economy that fully rely on national resources. Marine catches are one of the few natural resources of Latvia, and consequently of great economic importance. The country’s major fishing grounds are the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. Latvia has a fleet of 950 vessels with the coastal fleet having 742 fishing boats. The total catch averages 100,000 tons annually, with inland water catch accounting for only 500 tons. The main inland fish resources are concentrated in about 800 lakes and rivers. The major fish resources from Latvia include herring, salmon, and cod. Commercial aquaculture is also on the rise with the main species bred being carps.


The principal mineral found in Latvia is limestone, with an approximated reserve of 6 billion cubic meters. The reserves are sufficient enough to provide 85% of the raw material for its cement industry. The country extracts an average of 0.3 million tons of limestone annually, all of which are consumed in the country. The deposits are spread throughout the country and occur at fairly shallow depths. The major field is the Kumu field located in the district of Saldus. Limestone is mainly used as a raw material for cement and concrete.


Peat is one of the greatest resources of Latvia and is of immense significance in the preservation of the county’s beauty. Peatland in Latvia covers approximately 6,400 square kilometers or 10% of the total land area with the major deposits located in the eastern plains and near Riga. Peat was first extracted in Latvia in the 18th century but the intensive extraction started after the establishment of the state in 1918. There are over 10,000 peat fields in Latvia capable of producing over 1.7 million tons of peat annually. Approximately 60% of the peat reserves are the high type and the rest are low types. Latvia has increasingly exported its peat resources to other European countries, especially Western Europe because the region’s resource has significantly depleted.


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