The country’s economy is based on raw material extraction, agriculture, light manufacturing and tourism. In the years 1950–67, annual economic growth was 4 percent. Since the 1970s, growth has fallen rapidly due to. structural problems and as a result of the fall in the world market price of the most important export goods bauxite, aluminum and sugar.
The most important agricultural products are sugar cane, rum, molasses, bananas, citrus fruits, cocoa, spices, copra and coffee. Agriculture, which has been hit hard by droughts, floods and recurring hurricanes, is contributing an ever smaller share to GDP but is still of great employment importance.
The mining industry is of great importance to the country’s economy and accounts for just over one third of the country’s exports. Jamaica’s main mineral resource is aluminum and bauxite; the country is one of the world’s largest bauxite producers. Other industries mainly include the lighter manufacturing industry, with the production of sugar and other foods, as well as clothing, tobacco and chemicals. In addition to the mining industry, tourism is the country’s largest source of income. In 2016, more than 2 million tourists visited the country, most of them from the United States.
The country’s foreign trade has been in deficit since the mid-1970s, mainly due to increased food imports. The most important export goods are bauxite, aluminum, sugar, bananas and rum, while imports are dominated by food, oil, machinery and transport equipment. Jamaica’s main trading partners are the United States, the Netherlands and Canada.
- COUNTRYAAH: Find major trading partners of Jamaica, including major exports and major imports with latest trade value and market share as well as growth rate.
Tourism and gastronomy
Abbreviated as JAM by abbreviationfinder.org, Jamaica is a long-established and well-known tourist country. Visitors are attracted by the island’s tropical climate, the varied nature and not least the fine beaches. These are found mainly on the north coast from Negril at the far west across Montego Bay, which is the island’s major tourist center, and east past Ocho Rios. Just west of this city is one of Jamaica’s most visited attractions, Dunn’s River Falls, a series of waterfalls with a total of almost 200 meters of altitude to the Caribbean Sea. Inland there are both interesting scenery (including the Blue Mountains) and historical monuments. Jamaica also attracts with its partly distinctive cultural heritage, which is manifested in, for example, the rasta movement and reggae music, phenomena that characterize the entire island but which are perhaps most prominent in the Kingston area. There is also Fort Charles and the remains of Port Royal.
Note: the capital city of Jamaica is Kingston with a population of 584 600 (with suburbs, 2011 Census). Other major cities include Portmore with a population of 182,200, Spanish Town with a population of 162,000, Montego Bay with a population of 110,000 (2011 census).
The tourist stream attracts around 2 million visitors annually, most of them from the United States. In addition, approximately 1 million cruise passengers, whose short visits are of less economic importance to the country.
The Aruaks, the island’s indigenous people, introduced the manioc, which is now included in, among other things, stews, and the frequently used chili pepper. Seafood, fruits and vegetables are the most important staple foods, and Jamaica is part of the relatively homogeneous Caribbean sphere of food. However, some Jamaican specialties can be distinguished: saltfish and ackee, stamp and go (flat fish balls of cod) and goat served in curry sauce with unripe bananas and saffron. Bananas are not only used in main and desserts, but also as a substitute for flour at bread baking. Of course, Rome is included in most drinks, but also as a flavoring in sauces, desserts and breads.
Thanks to the abundance and differentiation of resources, the GDP of Jamaica and the resulting income, even if not equally distributed, are among the highest in the Central American area; however this was not enough to initiate an autonomous growth process, based on the intervention of national capital and companies. Furthermore, starting from the end of the seventies and in the following decade, the crisis in the prices of sugar and bauxite on the international markets led to a situation of stagnation, with a consequent decrease in production and employment, which penalized a large segment of the population and has triggered serious social tensions.
Agriculture plays a considerable role and absorbs about one fifth of the active population. Bananas, sugar and rum feed a good flow of exports, but the agricultural balance is negative every year, albeit with a gradual trend towards equilibrium. Regarding the mining sector, despite the uncertainties of the international aluminum market, Jamaica remains the third largest producer of bauxite in the world: over 11 million tons are extracted annually, partly exported, partly processed in national industries. After bauxite, the main source of income is tourism, which has seen a significant increase in recent years, going from around 1 million arrivals in 1987 to 1,75 million in 1997.