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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Economy

Agriculture is central to the economy of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines although tourism is growing in importance. The chief commercial crop is bananas; sugarcane, arrowroot, and coconuts are also grown and exported. The country is the world’s leading producer of arrowroot, a starch used in cooking to thicken sauces. Marijuana is grown illegally and exported to other islands. Some livestock are raised, and efforts are being made to expand the fishing industry. Japan has granted funds to develop fisheries, jetties, and refrigeration plants.

The agricultural sector generally, and the output of bananas in particular, is vulnerable to weather conditions. Since the volcanic eruption of 1979 the agricultural sector has suffered from several other natural disasters, including hurricanes, drought, and tropical storms. A World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling in 1997 against the European Union's special quota on Caribbean bananas imperiled Saint Vincent’s main market for its most important export, the European Union (EU). The EU had given preference to Caribbean-grown bananas over bananas from U.S.-owned plantations, but the U.S. government filed suit with the WTO, arguing that the quota was unfair. The WTO decided in favor of the United States.

Although tourism has grown in importance both on Saint Vincent and on Bequia, a small island noted for its beaches, the tourism industry still remains relatively undeveloped in comparison with other Caribbean islands. During the 1990s the Grenadines began to attract wealthy tourists and yacht owners. A number of celebrities have homes in the Grenadines.

The industrial sector is small-scale and dominated by food processing, although it also includes garment and metal manufacture, and some assembly of electronic components.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had a gross domestic product (GDP) of $423 million (2006), giving it a GDP per person of $3,527.80, one of the lower per capita figures for the Caribbean islands. In 2001 the national budget showed revenue of $106.9 million and expenditure of $130.8 million. The national currency is the East Caribbean dollar (2.70 E.C. dollars equal U.S.$1; 2006 average).

 
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