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Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands

Sectoral Performance

In 1983--the most recent year for which data were available in 1987--the leading sectors of the economy, as measured by percent of GDP, included agriculture (23.2 percent), government services (23.1 percent), transportation and communications (11.2 percent), manufacturing (8 percent), wholesale and retail trade (8 percent), construction (7.2 percent), and banking, finance, and housing (6.6 percent).

Agriculture remained the primary productive sector of the economy in the 1980s, accounting for approximately half of all export revenue. Dominica's agriculture was characterized by the estate-peasant dichotomy in evidence at the time of the abolition of slavery in 1834. The large estates continued to be located near the coast on the deep river valley soils, whereas most small farms were located in the interior on steep, highly erodible soils. This simultaneous existence of small and large farms led to an imbalance in the distribution of land resources that remained a major constraint on the island's economic development. In spite of land settlement programs (notably at the Geneva, Melville Hall, and Castle Bruce estates), in the mid-1980s just over 30 percent of the farmland was owned and occupied by 3 percent of the farming population.

The banana industry was the most important component of the agricultural sector. The industry was devastated by the hurricanes of 1979 and 1980, with production dropping from 47,484 long tons in 1978 to 13,500 long tons in 1980. In the early and mid-1980s, production was also hurt by the depreciation of the British pound, the currency of payment for bananas, against the United States dollar. The situation of the industry improved markedly, however, in the late 1980s. Production totalled 50,474 long tons in 1986, a 51.6-percent increase over the previous year. Quality also increased in 1986 as the industry achieved its goal of packing all bananas in the fields, thus reducing spoilage. Finally, the strengthening of the pound resulted in farmers receiving the highest prices in the history of the industry. The fragility of these high prices was quite evident, but because there were no firm markets for other island crops increasing the dependency of the economy on bananas appeared to be the only alternative.

Coconuts and citrus fruits (grapefruits, limes, and oranges) were also important agricultural products. Copra (dried coconut meat-yielding coconut oil) was an increasingly significant element of agro-based manufacturing. Grapefruit production expanded from 7,500 short tons in 1985 to an estimated 10,676 short tons in 1986, a 42.3-percent increase.

In the 1980s, Dominica's manufacturing sector increasingly focused on enclave industry (see Glossary), light assembly industry, and agro-processing. Enclave industries were designed to increase export earnings and provide employment. In the early 1980s, the government established two industrial estates and expanded factory facilities by over 16,500 square meters. Agroprocessing consisted of the production of laundry and toilet soaps from local copra and imported chemicals and tallow.

Unlike what was true typically in the Commonwealth Caribbean, tourism was a relatively insignificant component of the Dominican economy. The comparative absence of white sand beaches and tourist infrastructure greatly hindered the industry's development. Nonetheless, the island's rugged beauty provided considerable opportunities for expansion of tourism through the development of a marketing strategy emphasizing mountain climbing, camping, and the like.

Data as of November 1987