Key facts Guatemala

by Melissa Alexander
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Capital: Guatemala

Demography: Population 12.97 million, 2.6% growth rate (2001 estimates); Spanish, Amerindian languages; Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous religions.

Geography: Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea between Honduras and Belize and the Pacific Ocean between El Salvador and Mexico; tropical climate; mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains.

Government: Constitutional democratic republic. Chief of state and head of government is President Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabrera.

Official agricultural agencies: Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Hunger under Minister Jorge Escoto.

Economy: The agricultural sector is the driving force in the country’s economy, accounting for about 25% of gross domestic product, 70% of exports and 50% of the labor force. By contrast, services account for 57% of G.D.P., while industry accounts for 20%. A peace accord in 1996 ended 36 years of civil war and removed a major obstacle to foreign investment. Ongoing challenges include increasing government revenues, negotiating further assistance from international donors and increasing the efficiency and openness of both government and private financial operations.

G.D.P. per capita: U.S.$3,700 (purchasing power parity), 3% growth rate, 6% inflation (2000 estimates); 7.5% unemployment (1999 estimate).

Currency: Quetzal. Feb. 25, 2002 exchange rate: 7.8965 quetzales per U.S. dollar.

Exports: U.S.$2.9 billion (f.o.b., 2000), coffee, sugar, fruits and vegetables.

Imports: U.S.$4.4 billion (f.o.b., 2000), fuels, machinery and equipment, grain, fertilizers.

Major crops/agricultural products: Sugarcane, bananas, coffee, maize.

Wheat: Average annual production from 1997-2002 was 5,200 tonnes, down from a 1985-94 yearly average of 35,500. Annual imports in the latest five-year period have averaged about 407,000 tonnes, with total use at an annual average of 413,000, up 76% from the 1985-94 period.

Maize: Production in 1997-2002 averaged about 1.19 million tonnes a year, with imports averaging 458,000 a year and total use at 1.65 million a year. Annual feed use in the past 10 years has increased by 60%, to 600,000 tonnes in 2001-02, based on growth in the poultry industry.

Transportation: Highways, 13,856 km, 4,370 km paved; railroads, 884 km, all 0.914-m gauge, much of which is inoperable; Champerico, Puerto Barrios, Puerto Quetzal, San Jose are major ports.

Internet: Country code, *.gt; five service providers; 65,000 users (2000 estimates).