Peru’s gross domestic product in the late 1980s was $19.6 billion, or
about $920 per capita. Although the economy remains primarily agricultural, the
mining and fishing industries have become increasingly important. Peru relies
primarily on the export of raw materialschiefly minerals, farm products, and
fish mealto earn foreign exchange for importing machinery and manufactured
goods. During the late 1980s, guerrilla violence, rampant inflation, chronic
budget deficits, and drought combined to drive the country to the brink of
fiscal insolvency. However, in 1990 the government imposed an austerity program
that removed price controls and ended subsidies on many basic items and allowed
the inti, the national currency, to float against the United States dollar.
About 35 percent of Peru’s working population is engaged in farming.
Most of the coastal area is devoted to the raising of export crops; on the montan
a and the sierra are mainly grown crops for local consumption. Many farms in
Peru are very small and are used to produce subsistence crops; the country also
has large cooperative farms. The chief agricultural products, together with the
approximate annual yield (in metric tons) in the late 1980s, were sugarcane (6.2
million), potatoes (2 million), rice (1.1 million), corn (880,000), seed cotton
(280,000), coffee (103,000), and wheat (134,000). Peru is the world’s leading
grower of coca, from which the drug cocaine is refined.
The livestock population included about 3.9 million cattle, 13.3 million
sheep, 1.7 million goats, 2.4 million hogs, 875,000 horses and mules, and 52
million poultry. Llamas, sheep, and vicunas provide wool, hides, and skins.
The forests covering 54 percent of Peru’s land area have not been
significantly exploited. Forest products include balsa lumber and balata gum,
rubber, and a variety of medicinal plants. Notable among the latter is the
cinchona plant, from which quinine is derived. The annual roundwood harvest in
the late 1980s was 7.7 million cu m.
The fishing industry is extremely important to the country’s economy and
accounts for a significant portion of Peru’s exports. It underwent a remarkable
expansion after World War II (1939-1945); the catch in the late 1980s was about
5.6 million metric tons annually. More than three-fifths of the catch is
anchovies, used for making fish meal, a product in which Peru leads the world.
The extractive industries figure significantly in the Peruvian economy.
Peru ranks as one of the world’s leading producers of copper, silver, lead, and
zinc; petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, molybdenum, tungsten, and gold are
extracted in significant quantities. Annual production in the late 1980s
included 3.3 million metric tons of iron ore; 406,400 metric tons of copper;
2054 metric tons of silver; 203,950 metric tons of lead; and 612,500 metric tons
of zinc. About 64.9 million barrels of crude petroleum were produced, along with
578.3 million cu m of natural gas.
Much manufacturing in Peru is on a small scale, but a number of modern
industries have been established since the 1950s along the Pacific coast.
Traditional goods include textiles, clothing, food products, and handicrafts.
Items produced in large modern plants include steel, refined petroleum,
chemicals, processed minerals, motor vehicles, and fish meal.
In the late 1980s Peru had an installed electricity-generating capacity
of approximately 3.7 million kw, and annual output was approximately 14.2
billion kwh. About three-quarters of the total electricity produced was
generated in hydroelectric facilities.
The unit of currency in Peru is the inti, divided into 100 centimos;
after being allowed to float against the U.S. dollar, the inti fluctuated wildly
at between 200,000 and 400,000 to the dollar in mid-1990. The Banco Central de
Reserva del Peru (1922) is the central bank and bank of issue. All private
domestic banks were nationalized in 1987. Exports are more diversified in Peru
than in most South American countries. The principal exports are petroleum,
copper, lead, coffee, silver, fish meal, zinc, sugar, and iron ore. The chief
export markets are the United States, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy,
and Great Britain. Exports earned about $2.7 billion annually in the late 1980s.
The leading imports of Peru include electrical and electronic items, foodstuffs,
metals, chemicals, and transportation equipment. The principal sources of these
goods are the United States, Japan, Argentina, Germany, and Brazil. Imports cost
about $2.8 billion annually in the late 1980s.
Peru’s system of railroads, highways, and airports has been expanded
considerably since World War II. The country’s mountains make surface transport
difficult, however. In the late 1980s Peru had about 69,940 km (about 43,460 mi)
of roads, of which 11 percent were paved. The main artery is a section of the
Pan-American Highway, which traverses Peru from Ecuador to Chile, covering a
distance of about 2495 km (about 1550 mi). The Trans-Andean Highway links Lima
and Pucallpa. Peru also has about 2400 km (about 1490 mi) of railroads. One
trans-Andean line, the Callao-Huancayo, ascends to some 4815 m (some 15,800 ft)
above sea level, the highest point reached by any standard-gauge line in the
world. The most notable inland waterway is the Amazon River, which is navigable
by ship from the Atlantic Ocean to Iquitos in Peru. Lake Titicaca also serves as
a waterway. Leading Peruvian seaports include Callao, Salaverry, Pacasmayo,
Paita, and San Juan. The country’s main international airports are situated near
Lima, Cuzco, Iquitos, and Arequipa. Aeroperu, the national airline, offers
domestic and international service.
Peru’s telephone system, which was nationalized in 1970, has some
600,000 instruments. The country is served by more than 300 radio stations and 8
television stations. In the late 1980s about 4 million radios and 1.6 million
television receivers were in use. In the same period the country had more than
70 daily newspapers. Dailies with large circulations included El Comercio,
Expreso, Ojo, and La Republica, all published in Lima.