The industrial sector is small in Barbados and mainly produces consumer goods that are sold domestically or exported to other Caribbean islands.
The agricultural industry is dominated by sugar processing and rum and beer production. Furthermore, chemicals, plastics and rubber products, as well as food and tobacco, are manufactured.
Former textile and furniture industries were basically eliminated since the government abolished import duties in the 1990s. The cost of labor is higher in Barbados than in many other Caribbean countries and the industry cannot benefit from cheap energy as in Trinidad and Tobago.
The country’s only remaining heavy industrial plant is the foreign-owned cement factory Arawak, which uses domestic limestone as a raw material. Arawak resumed production in 1997 after a few years of hiatus but in recent years has again struggled in the headwind.
A modern information technology industry has grown since the 1980s and is well developed. Companies are attracted to Barbados by relatively low costs, a high level of education and proximity to the United States.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Barbados. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
Foreign trade has long shown a deficit, that is, imports are larger than exports. This is offset to some extent by revenues from tourism, emigrants’ money shipments and foreign aid.
The sugar industry accounts for the majority of Barbados exports, even though the share is declining and the future is uncertain (see Agriculture and Fisheries). Export revenues from rum production have doubled since the 1990s, giving 2016 more than ten times as much as sugar export revenues. Among other things that are sold abroad are also jewelery, healthcare products and cement.
Refined oil is the most important import product.
Through 2008, Caricom (see Foreign Policy and Defense) has been subject to an economic partnership agreement with the EU (Cariforum-EU EPA) since 2008. It is a trade and development agreement that gives the Caribbean countries continued duty-free on virtually all exports to EU countries, but which also means that they will gradually, until 2033, liquidate their own duties on imports from the EU.
Barbados can export certain goods duty-free to the United States through the so-called CBI program.
Barbados trade is mainly done with the other Caricom countries and the USA.
FACTS – FOREIGN TRADE
US $ 885 million (2013)
US $ 1,687 million (2013)
– US $ 248 million (2013)
Commodity trade’s share of GDP
45 percent (2017)
Main export goods
lighter industrial products, sugar and molasses, rum, food and beverages, chemicals, fuel, electronics
Largest trading partner
CARICOM countries, USA, EU countries, Russia, China
The tourism industry has been Barbados’ main industry since the 1970s and employs about a tenth of the working population. The country receives a large number of cruise ships. Many cruises also depart from the island.
Large investments have been made in the tourism sector since the late 1990s. It is mainly the turquoise water and the white sandy beaches in the south and west that attract, while the wilder east coast with its high waves attracts surfers.
In addition to sun and bath, Barbados also tries to attract culture and history. The historic neighborhood of Bridgetown with its military garrison is included in the UN agency UNESCO World Heritage List.
Britons and Americans make up more than half of the visitors. In addition to just over 500,000 tourists registered per year, just as many cruise passengers cross the country.
FACTS – TOURISM
Number of foreign visitors per year
632 000 (2016)
US $ 992,000,000 (2013)
The share of tourist income from exports
42.8 percent (2013)