Jamaica is classified as a developing country. We have a mixed, free-market economy consisting of a combination of state-owned entities and private-sector organisations. Our two most important economic sectors are tourism and mining, with agriculture and manufacturing also contributing to the economy. Tourism and mining are responsible for earning most of the valuable foreign exchange needed for trade.
With its unparalleled beauty and year-round vacation opportunities, Jamaica is an ideal tourist destination. Each year over one million visitors flock to our island to experience the delights of our exciting resort centres – Kingston, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, Port Antonio and the South Coast. As our biggest industry, tourism provides jobs in sectors other than its own. It helps to fuel our economy, empowering people in all sectors, from the farmer whose crops are used in hotel kitchens to the artist selling his craft in a shopping village.
Jamaica is one of the world's main producers of bauxite, a precious ore used in the manufacture of aluminium. As a result, bauxite is our second industry and the second best foreign exchange earner. We ship our bauxite to the USA, Canada, Norway and other countries for production. Although bauxite is the most mined mineral on the island, we also boast significant deposits of gypsum, marble, alabaster, limestone and agate.
The agricultural sector revolves around the farming and exporting of crops such as sugar, banana, coffee, citrus, cocoa, coconut, pimento (allspice) and a variety of root crops (e.g., yams).
Since the end of slavery, Jamaica has struggled to diversify her agricultural output. At present, we export most of our Blue Mountain coffee, one of the world's most-prized and expensive brands, to Japan. We also produce excellent mid-mountain and lowland coffee. The coffee industry is very labour-intensive, providing much needed employment for Jamaicans living in the island's mountainous regions.
Today, Jamaica continues to explore alternative products and crops as viable economic options. Currently we are experimenting in aquaculture (mainly fresh water fishing, oyster and shrimp farming), and the growth of special delicacies such as mushrooms and strawberries not normally grown in tropical climates. And our Jamaican flavourings and spices compete with international brands worldwide.
In order to foster growth and stability, particularly in our primary industries, the government of Jamaica has, since the 1990s, started a comprehensive economic programme. The programme places great emphasis on strict fiscal discipline and openness to trade and free markets. The government has also implemented many new policies such as a floating exchange rate, reduced restrictions on foreign investment and a stabilised Jamaican currency. Their long-term objective is to bring the Jamaican economy on par with that of our major trading partners, North America and Europe.