Country Profiles FMCG
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languages: English (official),
French patois President: Dr Nicholas Liverpool
Commonwealth of Dominica
Unlike many other Caribbean island nations,
Dominica was never a suitable site for sugarcane
cultivation, as rocky and mountainous terrain
made plantation production impossible. Only
about one-quarter of the island is cultivatable.
Climate, fertility, and topography are favorable
for tree crops, however, and Dominica has been a
producer of coffee, cocoa, and citrus fruits in
its history. Citrus crops are still important,
being grown for export to other Caribbean
islands, but the biggest share of agricultural
production since the 1950s has belonged to
bananas. Like St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, and Grenada, Dominica experienced a
"banana boom" in the 1980s when it was assured
access into the U.K. market. Stable prices
brought modest prosperity to many banana-growing
communities. During the 1970s and 1980s, banana
exports from Dominica tripled in volume, peaking
at 70 percent of export earnings. The dangers of
this one-crop dependency became evident in 1979
and 1980 when Hurricanes David and Allen
destroyed much of the banana crop. Widespread
damage due to hurricanes and tropical storms has
been experienced again in 1989 (Hurri-cane Hugo)
and 1995, when Hurricane Luis destroyed an
estimated 95 percent of banana plants. Then in
November 1999, Hurricane Lenny caused
considerable damage to banana and other
agricultural production. Fortunately, bananas
are quick to produce fruit after planting and
are hence a suitable crop in hurricane-prone
With few natural resources and a fledgling tourist industry, Dominica is attempting to reduce its reliance on bananas, traditionally its main export earner.
The trade has faced stiffer competition since the European Union was forced by the World Trade Organisation to phase out preferential treatment for producers from former colonies.
A mountainous, forested island with a year-round tropical climate, national parks, rare indigenous birds and the second-largest boiling lake in the world, Dominica is potentially a great tourist attraction.
Forest-clad slopes rise over Soufriere Bay
But poor infrastructure and the absence of a large airport has impeded the industry's growth. The country is also vulnerable to hurricanes.
Plans to build an airport capable of taking large jet aircraft have raised concerns that an increase in visitor numbers and the rise of eco-tourism would damage the finely-balanced environment.
Offshore finance has had its problems too. For a time, Dominica was included on a list of countries deemed to be non-cooperative in the fight against money-laundering. The government tightened up banking rules and set up a financial intelligence unit.
Dominica has a relatively low crime rate for the Caribbean. Although it is among the poorest countries in the region, its differences in wealth distribution are not as marked as in the larger Caribbean islands.
Dominica's parliament, the House of Assembly, appoints the president - the ceremonial head of state. The prime minister and cabinet exercise legislative power.
Prime minister: Roosevelt Skerrit
Roosevelt Skerrit's governing Dominica Labour Party won general elections in May 2005.
Roosevelt Skerrit grappled with economic challenges
Campaigning focused on a tough International Monetary Fund austerity programme which had boosted growth, but at the cost of tax rises and job cuts.
A former education minister, Mr Skerrit took office as Dominica's youngest prime minister two days after the sudden death of his predecessor, Pierre Charles, in January 2004. He was chosen by his party to succeed the late leader.
He inherited the challenge of boosting Dominica's sluggish economy, which relies heavily on tourism and banana exports.
In 2004 Mr Skerrit's government cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favour of ties with mainland China. The prime minister said Beijing had agreed to give more than $100 million in aid - equivalent to $1,500 for each Dominican.
He has also sought close ties with left-wing President Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. In January 2008, Dominica joined ALBA, a Central and South American trade group, which was proposed by Venezuela and opposes neoliberal economic policies.
Roosevelt Skerrit - who was 31 when he took office - studied English and psychology in the US before becoming a teacher and a lecturer on the island. He entered parliament in 2000.