In the past, Martinique had relied on agriculture as its primary source of income, but in recent years, with the decline of sugar production, tourism has drawn the most foreign exchange. Although tourism is a major part of the island's economy, it isn't the island's sole breadwinner. Martinique also relies on income from various agricultural exports and government endeavors.
Before the British and the French arrived on the island, Martinique's early immigrants were the Arawaks and Caribs who came from South America. These indigenous people were hunters and farmers who cultivated various crops on the island. Martinique's soil is extremely fertile, and its climate is perfect for growing exotic fruits and flowers. In fact, such flowers as wild orchids, flamingo flowers, hibiscus, and other tropical vegetation flourished so much on Martinique that the Arawaks and Caribs called the island Madinina, which means "Land of Flowers" in the Arawak language.
Christopher Columbus landed on Martinique in 1502, but it was the French who colonized the island in 1635. When the French colonists arrived, they established permanent settlements and began the cultivation of sugarcane, which was the start of Martinique's agricultural economy, and plantocracy on the island.
Now, most of the agriculture on the island can be found in the hot valleys and along the coastal strips, and large parts of these areas are dedicated to the cultivation of sugarcane and the production of rum, which is the island's greatest export. Bananas and pineapples are also important exports for Martinique. In recent years, the export of bananas has been increasing, with shipments mainly bound for France. Other agricultural exports include avocados, various other vegetables, and flowers. Currently, agriculture makes up about 6 percent of Martinique's gross domestic product.
Since sugar production has seen a major decrease, the tourism industry has been stepping up to take a dominant position in Martinique's economy. Tourism employs approximately 11,000 people on the island, making up a substantial part of the job market and a valuable sector of Martinique's foreign exchange. The French government provides assistance to Martinique's economy, and government jobs make up a good part of the island's job market. Other industries on the island include petroleum refining, sugar and rum production, and pineapple canning.
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