Economy and trade

Peru has an extremely rich soil and tremendous silvicultural resources, yet these are insufficiently exploited and industry forms a relatively small part of the country’s economy. The mining industry produces the larger part of export resources: gold, silver, zinc and copper. Nevertheless, the mining industry employs a relatively small part of the population.

Fishery and fishmeal production is another important branch of industry. Yet this industry does not create a lot of jobs. The agriculture sector employs 33% of the labor force.  Key crops for export include asparagus, artichokes, paprika pepper, coffee, cacao and high quality cotton, lama-and alpaca wool. In the Andes, crops are planted for home use and to be traded on the local market, whereas crops for export are planted on the coast. Peru’s largest trade partners are China and the US. In the deep Sierra, the cultivation of coffee, cacao, tea and banana’s is only slightly profitable.

The coca plant produces several crops a year and its leaves are a popular medicine for which farmers can get good money. Yet only a small portion of the production is used for traditional purposes, the bulk of it is being used as raw material for cocaine. Coca farmers are thus under threat by both the police and drug cartels.


In the Amazon forest, agriculture is limited because the soil quickly grows barren. The only major employment opportunities can be found in the logging or petroleum industry. But there is hope. Ecotourism is a rising industry. The more money can be generated with lodges and pristine nature, the easier it will be to save the rainforest.

A large part of the population has trouble providing for their family in spite of holding a job. As a natural outcome, many try their luck in the so-called informal sector: self-employed maids, night guards, taxi drivers and seamstresses. Many of these companies are not properly registered. Some of them produce textile and can afford to hire some employees. Larger trade companies are owned by the richest families in the country or by foreign investors.

Half of the population lives below the poverty line. 20 % is extremely poor. It is no surprise many children have to work in order to secure the family’s survival. They either help in agriculture or seek work in the city as shoe shiners or candy sellers. Although a number of social structures are available to support the children, they cannot all be helped.