The Road to a More Diversified Agricultural Export Sector in the Dominican Republic

18 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2019

See all articles by Carrie A. Meyer

Carrie A. Meyer

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 15, 2019


For the Dominican Republic, as for many Caribbean islands, sugar once defined the export sector. But times have changed, and the history of exports is less dominated by sugar in the Dominican Republic than in most Caribbean islands. In more recent history, agricultural exports have diversified significantly. For the five-year period 2009-2013, sugar exports amounted to less than 12% of the total value of agricultural exports, down from 59% in 1961-65, when all top exports were agricultural exports. (Agriculture now accounts for only 6% of GDP, down from 26% in 1965.) Top exports from the Dominican Republic in 2016 included gold, medical instruments, and cigars. Cigars topped the list of high-value agricultural exports – representing 26% of the total value of agricultural exports, followed by cocoa beans at 12.4%. The quantity of agricultural exports has increased greatly, with processed food and beverages playing larger roles, while traditional exports like sugar and coffee have fallen significantly in relative terms. Modern agricultural sector exports like cigars, rum, and beer complement a rapidly growing tourism sector.

This paper takes an empirical approach to explore the history of the agricultural export portfolio in the Dominican Republic, beginning from its early days as the first headquarters of Spain in the New World. In addition to sugar, other principle “traditional exports” with roots in colonial times included tobacco, cacao, and coffee. Cattle were also exported (often as contraband) for both hides and meat. The Food and Agriculture Organization provides a good data set from 1961 forward that has been digested and analyzed to examine the road to the increased diversification of agricultural exports in the modern or post-Trujillo period in the Dominican Republic.

Keywords: Dominican Republic, Hispaniola, agricultural exports, sugar, tobacco

JEL Classification: Q17, N56

Suggested Citation

Meyer, Carrie A., The Road to a More Diversified Agricultural Export Sector in the Dominican Republic (October 15, 2019). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 19-32, Available at SSRN: or

Carrie A. Meyer (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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