Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, simply known as Saint Vincent, is a country in the Lesser Antilles island arc located in the western part of the Windward Island. The country covers an area of approximately 150 square miles, making it the 184th most extensive country in the world. Its territory consists of Saint Vincent which is the main island, and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines which comprises smaller islands stretching from the island of Saint Vincent to Grenada. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is bordered by Saint Lucia to the north and Barbados to the east. With approximately 110,000 inhabitants, the country is the 196th most populated country in the world. It is a densely populated country with 795.1 persons per square miles.
Overview Of The Economy And Natural Resources
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' economy heavily relies on agriculture, with the country being the leading arrowroot producer in the world. Banana is one of the country’s major natural resources, accounting for about 60% of the workforce and 50% of the mechanized export. This overreliance on a single crop has caused the economy of Saint Vincent to be vulnerable to external forces. Tourism has also become an integral part of the economy, supplanting banana export as the chief source of foreign income. Although Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small country with agriculture as the main economic activity, the country has several natural resources, some of which remain untapped and underdeveloped. The country’s natural resources are highlighted and discussed below.
The economy of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is largely based on agriculture which contributes about 10% of the country’s GDP and 26% of the labor force. Banana is still the main crop although its significance has greatly declined as most farmers turn to root crops such as sweet potatoes, cassava, and arrowroots. Historically, banana farming has been the main employer in Saint Vincent, accounting for approximately 60% of the total labor force and 50% of the total mechanized export. Approximately 2,000 of the 30,000 households in the country earn their livelihood directly from the banana industry. Saint Vincent’s mountainous terrain has made it difficult for most crops to thrive. However, banana has been well suited to the territory that is mainly made up of small-holder farmers.
Although banana had been grown in Saint Vincent, its popularity began in the 1950s when Britain guaranteed stable prices to the farmers. Despite the incidences of the hurricane and other natural disasters, the banana industry continued to grow. By the 1980s, it contributed about 60% of the island’s export earnings and was the single biggest economic activity in the country. The country experienced a banana crisis in the 1990s when the production sharply declined from over 80,000 tons per year in 1990 to barely 37,000 tons in 1990. The decline was occasioned by the US complain to the WTO on EU banana discrimination. However, since the turn of a new century, production has increased with about 63,000 tons produced in 2013.
The fishing industry in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is dominated by small scale and artisanal fisheries. Most of the fishermen are referred to as “operators” who go out into the sea and return to land in the afternoon or evening. The fisheries subsector in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines contributes to about 2% of the GDP and accounts for about 7% of the total labor force. The majority of the labor force fully depend on fishing. With the increasing population and a move towards a healthy lifestyle, the demand for fish is steadily rising. Locally caught fish account for 70% of the per capita consumption of fish and fish products while imported, processed fish account for the rest. Fish landing in Saint Vincent is estimated to be about 1,250 tons annually. The small inshore fish such as the robin, jack, dodger, and Spratt account for 45% of the total catch while offshore fish accounts for 25% and shellfish 5%. The average annual fish export is estimated to be 175 tons translating to about US$ 750,000. Most of the catch is either sold fresh or chilled on ice. A small portion is salted and dried.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the major producers of arrowroot in the world. The arrowroot industry is essential for foreign exchange and contributes greatly to the economy. The country has a long history of arrowroot production, with the crop rising from food and medicine to a major export of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. As the sugar industry declined in the 19th century, the cultivation of arrowroot picked up to fill the void. Although the crop remains popular in the country, it has faced competition from bananas and other root crops. Arrowroot farms are mainly concentrated in the north of Rabacca River, particularly the Owia area. The cultivation covers an area of approximately 3,700 hectares and the crop is grown mainly by smallholder farmers. Previously Saint Vincent and the Grenadines arrowroot industry contributed almost half of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Today, banana is the dominant crop.
Having a clean and affordable energy supply is a major challenge faced by small island states including Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Imported oil energy accounts for about 95% of the total energy consumption in the country. Over the years, the government of Saint Vincent has made the effort to strengthen the energy supply and reduce dependence on oil imports. The main island of Saint Vincent is crossed by several rivers, leading to the development of energy capacity in the country. The development of the hydropower plant has made Saint Vincent and the Grenadines alongside Dominica an exception in the Eastern Caribbean. Hydropower accounts for about 3% of the total energy supply in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The government aims to add 5 to 10 MW to the current 5.6 MW of the already installed hydro capacity. However, this project faces the challenge of seasonal rainfall and fluctuating water levels in most of the rivers. During dry seasons, the availability of hydropower decreases by 50% or more.