The island of Jamaica is actually an island-nation situated in the Greater Antilles area of the Caribbean. It rests to the south of the country of Cuba and to the west of the island of Hispaniola. Jamaica covers a fairly large area, some 4,243 square miles and has a population of around 2,800,000. Unlike several other Caribbean nations, Jamaica does not use the East Caribbean Dollar but the Jamaican Dollar which came into circulation in 1969. The Jamaica economy has had a fair share of ups and downs since the 16th century, with several key industries keeping its head above water over the years.
Early History of Jamaica Economy
Like many of the Caribbean countries, Jamaica was once a key player in the sugar cane industry. The island had an abundance of sugar cane crops with production and exportation starting in 1520 with the arrival of the Spanish. As the years passed and the British took over from the Spanish in the 18th century, the sugar cane production on the island was the most important economic contributor, accounting for 22% of the world's sugar cane supply. In the latter part of the 19th century, Jamaica's hold on sugar cane diminished with the introduction of sugar beet and the Sugar Duties Act. From the 1940s the Jamaica economy received a much needed boost thanks to the introduction of banana crops.
Top Industries in Jamaica Economy
In the present day there are really three key industries which contribute most to the economy of Jamaica. The first of these is the tourism sector which employs 1 in 4 of the total workforce on the island (which is approximately 1.14 million). The island receives over 1 million visitors each year with the highest percentage of foreign travellers (as much as 71%) coming from The United States of America, followed by the United Kingdom and Canada. With tourism and its associated services contributing a high percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), over 50%, to the Jamaica economy, it is unlikely that there is a high risk of this sector declining rapidly in the near future.
The secondary sectors that help to keep the Jamaica economy steady are the mining and manufacturing industries. Mining accounts for around 9% of the country's GDP and its main products are bauxite and alumina. Indeed, Jamaica is the world's third largest producer of bauxite, behind Australia and Guinea.
Manufacturing also contributes 13% GDP to the Jamaica economy and amongst its main contributors are the areas of oil refinery, textiles, electronics, apparel and plastic items. Out of these the industry of textiles is the strongest employing thousands of people with the whole of the manufacturing sector employing 13% of the available workforce.
Although it is not the strongest contributor to the Jamaican economy, the sector of agriculture is also important to the country's economy. Its Gross Domestic Product contribution is as little as 7% but it does employ over 21% of the Jamaican workforce. Agricultural products that are exported to partners including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada include citrus fruit, coconuts, mangoes, ginger and coffee. Blue Mountain Coffee is a major player in the agriculture industry and is one of the most expensive brands available on the world market. In 2009, exports of this coffee brought in over $32 million to the country's economy.
With several thriving industries contributing massively to the Jamaica economy, there is little doubt that the country will remain stable for many years to come. The Jamaican government has also ensured that there are measures in place should the country be affected by instances of economic downturn in the years to come.