Manufacturing in Peru began with the establishment of consumer goods industries, which still dominate the sector. Smelting and refining are among Peru's most important industrial enterprises. As part of a long-term industrial program through hydroelectric power development, the Chimbote steel mills began to function in 1958; by 1965, capacity reached 350,000 ingot tons. A number of foundries, cement plants, automobile assembly plants, and installations producing sulfuric acid and other industrial chemicals have also come into operation. The expansion of the fish meal industry necessitated the construction of new plants as well as the establishment of many subsidiary industries: boatyards, repair and maintenance installations, and factories for the production of tinplate and cans, paper, jute nags, and nylon fishnet. Once a major guano exporter, Peru now produces synthetic fertilizers high in nitrogen and related industrial chemicals.
The country's sustained economic growth has been the result of a well diversified economic base. In 1996, the most dynamic area was agriculture, with crop production rising by 7% due to substantial increases in industrial crops like cotton, soy bean, tea and asparagus. Other industries showing important growth during the late 1990s were the mining of metals, petroleum, and construction. In 1998, it was estimated that an average of 11 new oil wells would be drilled per year until 2003, but in 1999 oil exploration slowed when a couple of dry wells were drilled. There are five oil refineries operating in Peru, with a production capacity of 182,000 barrels per day. In 2000, a concession was signed to develop the 13 trillion cubic foot (Tcf) Camisea natural gas field, and the development of this field may lead to the establishment of a natural gas market in Peru. Growth in construction during 1998 skyrocketed by 12%, with projects related to the repair of an estimated $1 billion in El Niño damage, and road building projects. Revenues from manufacturing production fell by 3%, however, because of low agricultural production and low world metals prices. By 2003, the economy was recovering. Textile production was an increasingly important sector, as was the production of leather goods, shoes, and the Alpaca and Vicuna sectors. In 2003, it was expected that 150,000 new jobs would be created in textile manufacturing.