Dominican Republic Table of Contents
Agriculture, the backbone of the Dominican economy for centuries, declined in significance during the 1970s and the 1980s, as manufacturing, mining, and tourism began to play more important roles in the country's development. During the 1960s, the agricultural sector employed close to 60 percent of the labor force, contributed one-quarter of GDP, and provided between 80 and 90 percent of exports. By 1988, however, agriculture employed only 35 percent of the labor force, accounted for 15 percent of GDP, and generated approximately half of all exports. The declining importance of sugar, the principal source of economic activity for nearly a century, was even more dramatic. Sugar's share of total exports fell from 63 percent in 1975 to under 20 percent by the late 1980s. The transformation in agriculture paralleled the country's demographic trends. In 1960, some 70 percent of the country's population was rural; by the 1990s, upwards of 70 percent was expected to be urban. Government policies accelerated urbanization through development strategies that favored urban industries over agriculture in terms of access to capital, tariff and tax exemptions, and pricing policies. As a consequence, the production of major food crops either stagnated, or declined, in per capita terms from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s. Lower world prices for traditional cash crops and reductions in the United States sugar quota also depressed the production of export crops in the 1980s.
Data as of December 1989