Réunion imports about 65% of everything it needs from France. Conversely, France imports about 70% of everything Réunion produces. On the negative side, imports are increasing and exports are decreasing, and the inflation rate is much higher than in France. The main import partners are France, Bahrain, Germany and Italy. The main export partners are France, Japan and Comoros. Of the working population, 8% work in agriculture, 19% in industry and 73% in services, including government and tourism. The official unemployment rate is over 40%.
The gap between the rich and the poor is very wide and causes a lot of social unrest. The whites and Indians are still best off compared to the other communities.
Réunion's economic future is still very dependent on financial aid from France.
Agriculture, livestock ans fisheries
The basis of Réunion's economy continues to be agriculture, especially sugar cane, which occupies 65% of the available arable land. Around 80% of agricultural export revenue comes from sugar cane. By-products of the cane sugar are molasses, rum and other alcoholic drinks, which are, however, only destined for the French market.
Réunion is one of the largest producers of geranium oil, which is used as a fixative in perfume, among other things. The oil is extracted from the leaves of the plant in a traditional manner. It is a typical cottage industry, mainly concentrated around Le Tampon and Le Maïdo.
Fragrant oils also come from the roots of vetiver, an Asian grass, but on a much smaller scale than geranium oil. Production of this product is found at the foot of the hills near Saint-Pierre and Saint-Joseph. Until the 1970s, there were also large plantations of ylang-ylang, bushes with yellow flowers that gave off an overwhelming scent. Today, only a few plantations still supply the French perfume industry.
Vanilla plantations are concentrated between Sainte-Suzanne and Saint-Philippe and have been a small but stable factor in the economy for the past century.
Tobacco is on the way back and spices like black pepper, colves and cinnamon are popular products again. Maize, potatoes, lentils, beans, garlic, onions and fruits such as lychees, mandarins, oranges, bananas, lemons, papayas and mangoes are produced in fairly large quantities.
Livestock farming is for the local market and consists of pig and chicken farms. The fishing industry is still marginal due to the lack of good ports and also mainly intended for the local market. In recent years, however, tuna and swordfish have been exported to France. The main port is Pointe-des-Galets.
Réunion people do monitor some French fish factories on the sub-Antarctic islands of St.-Paul and Amsterdam, more than 3,000 km southeast of Réunion.
Ellis, R. / Mauritius, Rodrigues & Réunion : the Mascarene Isles
Mauritius, Réunion & Seychelles
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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