Agriculture refers to the growing of crops and rearing of animals. Throughout much of the Caribbean’s history, agriculture has been an important economic activity. Agriculture remains important today for many reasons:
- It provides employment. In many Caribbean countries, agriculture employs about 10 to 25 percent of the working population.
- Many Caribbean countries import more agricultural products than they export. Producing food locally reduces the need to import food from other countries.
- It provides fresh food
- It provides raw materials for many manufacturing industries such as food processing.
- Many of the region’s major exports are agricultural products. Various Caribbean countries export crops like bananas, cocoa and rice to other countries within or outside of the Caribbean.
Trends in Caribbean Agriculture
- In the past, agriculture was a major employer in the Caribbean. However, today, agriculture generally employs a small percentage of the workforce. Services such as tourism now employ the majority of the workforce. Most farmers are older folk as few young people want to become farmers.
- Many agricultural products from the region were given preferential treatment in the EU in the past. Caribbean bananas, for instance, were given priority until 1992. Also sugar producers were allowed to export a given quantity of sugar to Europe. However, many of these preferential arrangements no longer exist or have been reduced.
- In the past, agriculture was a major contributor to GDP in the region. It was also a major foreign exchange earner. However, today the situation is very different. In many territories, agriculture is responsible for only a small percentage of GDP and earns only a small proportion of foreign exchange. According to the FAO, in many Caribbean countries, agriculture “contributes between 7 and 17 percent of GDP”. The graph below was taken from a document produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It shows the percentage of GDP that agriculture is responsible for in many Caribbean countries.
- Generally, less land is being used for agriculture in the region now than in the past. In the case of peasant farmers, farms are small and often fragmented.
FAO. 2019. Current Status of agriculture in the Caribbean and implications for Agriculture Policy and Strategy. 2030 – Food,
Agriculture and rural development in Latin America and the Caribbean, Nº14. Santiago de Chile. FAO. 28p
Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.