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Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands


Agricultural output in Trinidad and Tobago during the 1970s and 1980s was inversely related to the performance of the oil sector: depressed during the oil boom, stimulated during oil's decline. Increasing wage costs, shortages of labor, and oil wealth all directly affected agricultural output. The trend was most pronounced in the 1970s, when the sharp increase in the price of oil exports discouraged traditional agricultural exports and encouraged the importation of food crops previously produced locally. As the oil industry's boom attracted more Trinidadians to urban areas, the rural labor force declined nearly 50 percent, representing only 10 percent of the total work force by 1980. Meanwhile, agriculture's share of GDP dropped from slightly over 6 percent in 1970 to just above 2 percent in 1980. Sugar, the most important crop, typified the decline, as its output fell nearly 50 percent during the 1970s. Other major export crops also suffered drastic declines from 1970 to 1980, including cacao (61 percent), coffee (15 percent), citrus fruit (75 percent), and copra (56 percent). Although agriculture rebounded in the mid- to late 1980s, it was far from approaching its status prior to the oil boom. Output in 1985 stood at about US$365 million, or 3 percent of GDP, well below the 1970s level in constant dollars. Nonetheless, the agricultural sector in the 1980s did experience the fastest growth among all sectors in the recessed economy. Growth in agricultural output in the 1980s was led by the strong performance of domestic agriculture, especially small-scale family gardening.

Data as of November 1987