Nicaragua’s economy is based on agriculture, which contributes more than 40% of GDP. The principal export items and their value for year 2000 (all figures in millions of US dollars): coffee $169.5, shrimp $56, lobster $54.1, beef $50.9, gold $29.5, sugar $28.7, peanuts $23.2 and bananas $10.6 million dollars. Alternative industries like tobacco $3.7 and artisan products $4.9 are being encouraged and have gained importance. Principle industries are food processing $32.0, leather products $5.2, textiles $1.5 and wood products $8.3. Energy, tourism and gold mining benefited from foreign investment in the 1990s and the seafood industry showed marked improvement. In fact tourism has grown to be the second most important source of foreign currency in Nicaragua with regular annual growth. In 1999 Nicaragua’s ranking among world markets for free-market openness jumped from 68th to 34th on the list of 130+ countries. Inflation dropped from just over 11% annual to 9% from 1999 to 2000. Total export earnings have nearly doubled in the last decade with a 1990 total of US$330.5 million rising to a year 2000 earnings total of US$625.3 million.

The Nicaragua monetary unit is the córdoba. The currency is on a program of scheduled devaluation against the US dollar and at time of publishing was rated at 14 córdobas to the US dollar. Dollars are used widely in Nicaragua and many services for visitors are quoted in dollars and can be paid in that currency.