Uruguay is traditionally an agricultural country, mainly
focused on livestock farming. Low world demand for the
country's export goods, mainly meat, and high interest rates
led to reduced exports in the 1980s. This, together with the
burdensome external debt, forced a comprehensive
restructuring program in 1990 according to the World Bank's
recommendations. According to
countryaah, economic problems in neighboring Brazil and
Argentina further undermined the country's economy.
In 2003, the government initiated a restructuring of the
country's spending and the economy recovered in subsequent
years. A contributing reason for this was that the country's
meat exports, including to the US, increased again. Even
during the international financial crisis, Uruguay fared
better than many expected, and in 2010 economic growth was
estimated at just over 8 percent. Since then, however, the
growth rate has slowed down, much as a result of increased
economic problems for neighboring countries, especially
Argentina and Brazil. The country has had a traditionally
liberal monetary policy, and the large private banking
sector contributes about 20 percent to GDP.
Although only 6% of GDP is agricultural products, rural
areas are the dominant sector of the economy. Uruguay is
part of the fertile pampas area, and its soil is
particularly well suited for the cultivation of fodder
plants and for livestock management, Uruguay's traditional
main industry. Of almost 85 percent of Uruguay's land that
is cultivable land, 3/4 is utilized as pasture land. Rice,
wheat, maize, oilseeds and barley are grown on the
cultivated land (8 percent of the area). Half of the export
revenue comes from agricultural products. However, the
proportion of labor employed in agriculture has gradually
decreased (from 20 percent in 1965 to 13 percent in 2010),
which indicates a relatively high productivity in the
Minerals and energy
Uruguay has no economically significant mineral
resources. There are coal, but it is of poor quality and
expensive to extract. The country's energy needs are met by
imported fossil fuels, which are refined inland, but above
all by water energy, which is extracted from dams along the
Uruguay River and Río Negro. As a small country with a small
industry, Uruguay has become a net exporter of commercial
energy (almost 1/3 is exported annually).
Uruguay's industrial sector is small; it accounts for 24
percent of GDP and employs 14 percent of the labor force.
For the main production, the industry that processes
agricultural products is responsible for, for example, food,
textiles, tobacco and shoes. Oil derivatives, chemical
products and transport equipment are also manufactured.
Programs to replace imports with domestic production favored
industry growth until the 1970s, but were replaced by a
decline in a more export-oriented model.
Uruguay is traditionally sensitive to demand in the major
neighboring countries Argentina and Brazil. Since 1991,
Uruguay, together with these, has also been a member of the
Mercosur Customs Union, which also includes Paraguay. Main
export products are meat, soybeans and cellulose. The
increased economic openness with liberalized trade
conditions during the 20th century has increased imports and
thus the trade deficit.
Tourism and gastronomy
Uruguay is primarily a vacation destination for South
Americans. The largest group of the country's 1.4 million
yearly tourists are Argentinians.
The selection of seaside resorts is large. The finely
restored small town of Colonia del Sacramento has a
well-preserved settlement from the 18th and 19th centuries,
city walls, baroque churches and (small) monumental
buildings; the city is listed on UNESCO's World Heritage
List. Upstream of the Uruguay River there are a few more
colonial cities. There are also the ruins of a Jesuit plant.
The capital Montevideo has a number of interesting museums,
as well as a large selection of hotels and restaurants.
The food in Uruguay is very similar to that in Argentina
and Paraguay, that is, the meat dominates the table
altogether. The many barbecue restaurants serve asado
(grilled meat), usually with salad and potatoes as an
accessory. The country produces good and well-seasoned
sausages (chorizos, morcillas, salchichas); The
blood sausage morcilla dulce is seasoned with
orange and walnuts. Another specialty is mondongo,
tripes with beef tomatoes, peppers and chickpeas.
The sea offers many dishes, such as shark (cazón),
octopus and mussels. Often the fish becomes a mustard stew (muqueca
de peixe). On the streets, fast food is sold in the
form of, for example, the media luna mixters, small
puff pastry pies with cheese and ham. Common
desserts include chajá, jam balls with jam
and cream, and massini (a creamy, soft cake).