Belize Economy

Forestry was the only economic activity of any consequence in Belize until well into the 20th century, when the supply of accessible timber began to dwindle. Cane sugar then became the principal export. Exports were augmented by expanded production of citrus, bananas, seafood, and apparel.

The agricultural sector suffered from damage resulting from hurricanes that struck Belize in late 2007 and heavy flooding in mid-June and October of 2008. The farm shrimp industry, a chief export earner until 2005, continues to decline. The service sector and nascent petroleum sector lead Belize’s economic growth. 
The country has about 809,000 hectares of arable land, only a small fraction of which is under cultivation. To curb land speculation, the government enacted legislation in 1973 that requires non-Belizeans to complete a development plan on land they purchase before obtaining title to plots of more than 10 acres of rural land or more than one-half acre of urban land.

Domestic industry is limited, constrained by relatively high-cost labor and energy and a small domestic market. Some 185 U.S. companies have operations in Belize, including Archer Daniels Midland, Texaco, and Esso. Tourism attracts the most foreign direct investment, although significant U.S. investment also is found in the telecommunications and agriculture sectors. 
A combination of natural factors, such as climate, the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, numerous islands, excellent fishing, safe waters for boating, jungle wildlife and Mayan ruins, support the thriving tourist industry. Development costs are high, but the Government of Belize has designated tourism as one of its major development priorities. However, although in 2006 tourist arrivals in Belize totaled 958,813 (about 70% from the United States), tourist arrivals were down 2.5% in 2008 alone. This decline is primarily the result of the global economic crisis. 
Source: U.S. Department of State