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The Caribbean’s Role in American Agriculture

Posted by Terry Matlock, Public Affairs Specialist, National Agricultural Statistics Service in Equity Food and Nutrition Research and Science
Jun 27, 2022
Research Garden at the University of San Juan Botanical Garden

June is Caribbean American Heritage Month! Many foods and beverages originated in the Caribbean. For instance, Chocolate milk originated in Jamaica and Barbados is considered the birthplace of rum.

The Caribbean plays a large role in U.S. agriculture and economy. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture (PDF, 4.8 MB), Puerto Rico, with its 8,230 farms and 488,000 cuerdas produced $485 million in agricultural production and the Virgin Islands’ (PDF, 1 MB) 565 farms and 9,324 acres had $3.3 million in sales.

In Puerto Rico (PDF, 611 KB), the Arecibo and Ponce regions together accounted for $259.1 million production value, which is more than half the island’s total production value. Across the island, the production value of crops and livestock was split at $242.4 million and $242.6 million, respectively. The top two crops by production value were grain and field crops at $74.4 million and plantains at $42.3 million. The leading commodity was milk at $172.2 million, 71% of overall livestock production.

In the Virgin Islands (PDF, 557 KB), vegetables had the largest sales with $1.1 million followed by nursery crops at $725,000. The top three vegetables by pounds were cucumbers (97,575 pounds), tomatoes (75,687 pounds) and squash (61,404 pounds). Bananas were the largest fruit by pounds (61,430 pounds) and bananas had the largest number of farms with 264 farms producing bananas.

Although small in land area, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are formidable in their contributions to U.S. agriculture. What will the upcoming Census of Agriculture tell us about them? Data collection begins in Puerto Rico this fall and in 2024 for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more about and sign up for the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2022 Census of Agriculture. Be sure to register by June 30!