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The most important sectors for the economy of La Palma are agriculture and tourism. Around 30% of the working population is employed in the agricultural sector. About 35% of the population is employed in crafts, a cigarette factory in El Paso and in the construction industry, which is flourishing thanks to increasing tourism. The remaining jobs are in commerce, administration and, increasingly, tourism.

Bananas account for 98% of all exports and almost 10,000 hectares, especially in the west, are covered with banana plants. Especially south of Los Llanos de Aridane, in the Aridane valley, banana plants grow as far as the eye can see. Nowadays, more and more avocados, which require much less water, are also being grown.

In the north and central part of La Palma, potatoes are mainly grown. There are two potato harvests per year, and tobacco, onions and sweet potatoes are also grown.

Tobacco factories in the capital Santa Cruz de La Palma produce high quality Canarian cigars. Of all the Canary Islands, it is only on La Palma that cigars are made by hand in small workshops. Around Breña Alta and Breña Bajo, in the east of La Palma, tobacco cultivation predominates; the area around Mazo is an agricultural area with mainly vineyards. El Paso is a centre for cigarette production and just outside the city silkworms are bred, the silk from which is processed into small manufactures.

Los Llanos de Aridane is an important commercial and shopping centre. The people in the village of Puntagorda in the north-west of La Palma make a living, among other things, from growing almonds.

The whole island was designated a wine-growing area in 1995 with a legally defined designation of origin. There are three sub-regions, the north of La Palma, Fuencaliente and Hoyo de Mazo. In the south, vineyards have been planted on the lava. Among the grape varieties grown for white wines, listán blanco dominates, but malvasía, gual and bujariego are also cultivated; almost all red wines are made from negramol. The most famous wine is the heavy, sweet malvasía wine.

In the villages in the north-western part of the island, 'vino de la tea' is made in pine barrels, a heavy, resinous drink. Rum is also distilled on La Palma. In addition to white rum, there is a dark yellow variety aged in wooden barrels.

The fishing fleet of Puerto de Tazacorte is the largest on La Palma. Around 90% of the catch is landed here and transported to fish shops and restaurants.

Livestock farming is modest: over 80% of meat production is imported. On the steep slopes, however, there are many sheep and goats. Everywhere on the island, goat cheese is made at home. The milk usually comes from the 'cabra palmera', a goat species typical of La Palma.

Water: an ever-growing problem

In recent years, La Palma has suffered an increasingly severe water shortage. Until now, the fresh water has come from the many springs and watercourses on the island. The island's electricity was generated by three hydroelectric power stations; nowadays only one is in use, because the water supply from the springs in the Caldera de Taburiente has decreased by no less than 70% in recent years, and a third of the springs have already dried up.

The main cause is agriculture, and explicitly not tourism, as is often thought. More than 90% of the water is used to irrigate banana plantations. A partial solution would be to stop growing bananas, but farmers fiercely resist, supported by politicians afraid of losing votes.

Efforts are being made to open up new supplies of groundwater by building tunnels called "galerías". However, these new reserves will also be exhausted within a few years and another problem is the enormous subsidence in the area around these galleries, up to four metres per year. It is thought that the problem may be solved by the construction of gigantic catch basins that can store excess water from the galleries.

Another solution would be to grow less water-dependent crops, such as avocados and pineapples.


Canarische eilanden
Van Reemst

Evers, K. / Canarische eilanden : Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Palma, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote

Klöcker, H. / La Palma

Lipps, S. / Wandelgids La Palma

Murphy, P. / Canarische eilanden

Renouf, N. / Canarische eilanden

Rochford, N. / Wegwijzer voor La Palma en El Hierro : een landschapsgids
Sunflower Books

Schulz, H.H. / La Palma
Van Reemst

Valk, T. / Wandelgids La Palma : 16 wandelroutes

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Last updated May 2024
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