Jamaican agriculture accounts for about 6% of GDP, less than in most developing countries. Agriculture (together with forestry and fisheries) is the third largest foreign exchange earner and the second largest employer of labor. Attempts to offset the serious price and production problems of traditional agricultural exports by encouraging production of winter vegetables, fruits, and flowers have had limited success. Vegetable and melon production in 1999 amounted to 184,000 tons; principal varieties include pumpkin, carrot, cabbage, tomato, callaloo, and cucumber. Production of other crop groups (with leading varieties) in 1999 included: pulses (red peas, peanut, gungo peas), 5,000 tons; condiments (scallion, hot pepper, onion), 7,000 tons; fruits (papaya, pineapple, watermelon), 1,416,000 tons; cereals (corn, rice), 2,000 tons; and roots and tubers (yams, potatoes, plantains), 307,000 tons.
Sugar, the leading export crop, is produced mainly on plantations organized around modern sugar factories that also buy cane from independent growers. Raw sugar production in 2000 was estimated at 175,000 tons, down from 290,000 tons in 1978. Sugar is Jamaica's largest agricultural export, earning $66 million in 2001. Sugar is also used for the production of molasses (79,653 tons in 2002) and rum (24.2 million liters in 2002). Banana production in 1999 was 130,000 tons. Other major export crops in 1999 included cocoa, and coffee. Blue Mountain coffee, which is primarily exported to Japan, brings in some $12 million annually in foreign exchange earnings. Jamaica also exports coconuts, pimientos, citrus fruits, ginger, tobacco, yams, papayas, dasheens, peppers, and cut flowers. Jamaica exported $227.7 million and imported $402.7 million in agricultural products during 2001.
The island's food needs are met only in part by domestic production, and foodstuffs are a major import item. The main food crops, grown primarily by small cultivators, are sweet potatoes and yams, rice, potatoes, manioc, tomatoes, and beans. Jamaica is a major producer of marijuana, which, however, remains illegal. The government participates in a US-funded campaign to eradicate marijuana trading.