Dominican Republic - Agriculture
Although it has declined dramatically since the 1960s, agriculture remains an important factor in the economy of the Dominican Republic, accounting for an estimated 11.3 percent of the GDP in 1999. In 1998, about 17 percent of Dominicans were employed in agricultural work, either as small farmers or plantation workers. Sugar continues to occupy first place in the country's agricultural production and exports, but output has fallen considerably since the 1980s, and there are many other crops grown, including food for local consumption and non-traditional exports such as pineapples and exotic fruits destined for the United States. The Dominican Republic is an importer of certain foodstuffs, notably wheat, but it is overall a net exporter of agricultural products, with sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, and meat among its principal exports. Dominican cigars now outsell Cuban ones which are embargoed by the United States. In the late 1990s tobacco exports averaged US$100 million annually. Significant growth has also been recorded in non-traditional exports such as cut flowers, ornamental plants, and exotic fruits, which together earned nearly US$200 million in 1997. The Dominican Republic is also a major producer of bananas, and although most are consumed locally, some producers have begun exporting organic bananas to a growing market in Europe and the United States.
Much Dominican farming is aimed at local markets, especially the production of rice. Other crops include maize, plantains, and tomatoes. All agricultural activity is extremely vulnerable to hurricanes, droughts, and other natural hazards.
Although fishing takes place around the country's extensive coastline, there is no export industry, and most fish is destined for hotels and restaurants. Some fish, mostly salted or frozen, is imported.