Since European settlers first landed on Dominica, agriculture has been the top economic pursuit on the island. Its rich soil made fertile planting grounds for many crops, especially bananas, which enjoyed a region-wide preference in Europe until recently.
Bananas are a popular fruit for export in the Caribbean, and Dominica relied upon this cash crop for hundreds of years to support its economy. Many islanders work on banana farms and others are involved in their export. Until recently, bananas accounted for about 80 percent of Dominica's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Storms have taken their toll on the island throughout the years. The recent strength of tropical storms has made banana growth difficult, and many crops have suffered in recent years, causing a loss in production.
The United Kingdom had set the precedent of preferential treatment toward its Windward Islands in the Caribbean for the importation of bananas. However, the recent decision by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to end this preferential treatment forced many islands, including Dominica, to change their economies.
Dominica's GDP has suffered in the wake of the WTO decision, but the island's attempts to diversify its economy have succeeded in many ways. Diversification industries include offshore finance, oil refining, and tourism.
There are plans to construct an oil refinery on the eastern portion of Dominica. However, these plans are not happily met by those on every side of the argument. Most recently, Dominica has decided to work in conjunction with Venezuela, and may become a repository for Venezuelan petroleum.
Offshore banking and finance is another viable option that may help to boost the tiny island's economy. Dominica already features some light industry, particularly the export of soaps, and these small changes may go a long way.
Of course, the biggest area for expansion on Dominica is in tourism. Due to the island's almost tourism-free past and lack of development, it has been described as the one Caribbean island that Columbus would still recognize. This lack of development has led to an opening in tourism to encourage eco-tourism. This tourism niche is particularly important to protecting Dominica's resources in the future.
The growth of tourism on Dominica faces some problems, including the lack of a transportation infrastructure. Because the island has no international airport, travelers must choose to island-hop or reach the island by boat. The recent construction of a larger port has made it easier for travelers to reach the island by cruise.
From trouble with the weather to trouble with selling, agriculture has become problematic for Dominica. However, the future is bright for this small island, which has worked hard to encourage its own economic development, including its move to make tourism, particularly eco-tourism, an important economic point.
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