AGRICULTURE. – A significant share of the active population (about 15% in 2005) continues to be employed in the primary sector, which contributes less than 4% to GDP. The cultivable soils (about 14% of the surface) are irregularly distributed: mainly in the S, much less in the N, where, moreover, there is no lack of areas of profitable irrigated crops (cotton, tobacco). Irrigation covers 20% of arable land. The system of collective lands assigned to the peasants of an entire village (ejidos), a legacy of the Mayan tradition generalized by land reform, has recently been eliminated.1917: the privatization of land did not achieve the result of increasing the productivity of the sector and the incomes of farmers; some increases have been registered in the sectors with a capitalist presence, but the conditions of small farmers have worsened. Very extensive are meadows and pastures (42% of the total) and forest areas (29%), while 15% are uncultivated or unproductive.
According to Smber, the arable land is used for cereal crops: maize, cultivated for over 7000 years up to 3000 m asl and whose production is constantly increasing (more than 20 million t in 2005), sorghum (6.3 million t ), wheat (3 million) and rice; the cultivation of beans is very widespread. Fruit and vegetable crops, in a temperate environment (peaches, tomatoes, peppers, grapes) and tropical (citrus fruits, strawberries, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, coconuts), almost all record increases in production. Other products are coffee, in the tierras templadas, sugar cane, in the south-eastern coastal lowlands (45 million t), and cotton. Among the industrial plants of Mexico are also agaves, from which alcoholic spirits such as pulque and tequila are extracted, and sisalane, which provides a textile fiber called henequén. The panorama of agricultural crops is completed with tobacco and oilseeds.
Breeding finds good conditions in natural meadows and pastures: that of cattle (31.5 million head) is practiced in the North in the wild (dairy cattle prevail in the Center and in the South). There are also 14.6 million pigs, 9 million goats, 6.8 million sheep, about 13 horses and about half a billion poultry; Among the products, meat and milk are particularly relevant. Mexico is also one of the major exporters of honey. Fisheries supplied approximately 1.4 million tonnes of product in 2006.
INDUSTRY AND TOURISM. – Industry absorbs 24% of the active population and contributes 27% to the formation of the GDP. Major companies in Mexico are controlled by multinational companies, while medium and small industries see their market space shrink; a group of important multinational companies of Mexican origin was formed. Since 1966, the presence in the border municipalities of the maquiladoras (assembly plants entirely linked to foreign capital, favored by customs exemptions and tax concessions), if it has alleviated the employment problem, it has limited the emergence of a local industry. Among the basic industries, the steel industry has a diversified production, with 16 million tonnes of steel alone (Monterrey plants; Monclova; Mexico City; Lazaro Cárdenas-Las Truchas). The chemical industry (Ocotlán, Zacapú, Toluca, Monterrey, La Leona, Chihuahua, Mexico City) is well represented and carries out important productions, including artificial fibers and fertilizers; the petrochemical sector is among the most active in the world. For capital goods the country it still depends heavily on foreign countries, while notable progress has been made in the production of household appliances, electrical and electronic materials, pharmaceuticals, ceramics and consumer goods in general. In the mechanical sector there are textile and office machines, railway equipment and above all the automotive industry (Mexico City, Saltillo, Monterrey, Lerma, Guadalajara), in which American, European and Japanese companies operate, which deal with the assembly of motor vehicles (over one million cars and nearly 700,000 commercial vehicles in 2005), with a significant local induced. The agri-food industries in many areas remain the heart of the industrial sector, and often have a long tradition (textiles, tobacco manufacturing, sugar, oils, alcoholic beverages, etc.). The industrial fabric of Mexico is articulated around four urban agglomerations (Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Minatitlán-Istmo di Tehuantepec), of which the capital is undoubtedly the most important. More recently industrialized is the southern area.
Tourism relies on a rich archaeological, artistic and environmental heritage, which makes Mexico the eighth world tourist destination: in 2006 visitors, 90% from the United States and Canada, were 21.4 million.
ROUTES OF COMMUNICATION. – In need of further development are the transport infrastructures: the railways (26,662 km) are insufficient, the road system (356,000 km, one third paved) is not in good condition, and involves just 6400 km of motorways (on this network, almost 22 million vehicles are in circulation, according to 2005 data). The merchant fleet is extremely modest (1.1 million tonnes in 2006), and the port system is inadequate (Veracruz, Tampico, Acapulco, etc.). The air network is good (almost 22 million passengers in 2006, with about 60 existing airports).