Economic activity

The population is irregularly distributed over the islands, with a large majority of residents residing in São Miguel, 53%, followed by Terceira (23.5%), Pico (6.4%), Faial (6.3 %), São Jorge (4.3%), Santa Maria (2.5%), Graciosa (2.2%), Flores (1.8%) and finally Corvo with only 0.2% of the Azorean population.

With an active population of around 100,000, it is divided into 22% in the Primary Sector, 26% in the Secondary Sector and 52% in the Tertiary Sector.

In livestock, bovine cattle occupy a prominent place, milk being the main production of this sector and excellent raw material for the processing of its derivatives, butter, cheese and milk powder.

On the other hand, the production of meat of great quality is destined to a great extent for the export, especially for the Portuguese continent and for the Autonomous Region of Madeira.

As far as the production of pigmeat and its derivatives and the production of eggs, the main product of the regional poultry industry, are concerned, in particular, with supplying the regional market.

In the field of fisheries, by the extension of the EEZ of the Azores, the Azorean seas constitute one of the great potentialities of the Region, offering great wealth in diversity and quality of species. In the industrial sector, the capture of tunas occupies the top spot, while in the artisanal fishery, the chicharro, the gorilla, the conger, the apothecary and the mackerel are the most captured species.

Of the Manufacturing Industries existing in the Region, those related to “food, beverages and tobacco” occupy the first place in number, followed by “Madeira Industry”, being in São Miguel where they are the largest number of these Companies.
Thermal energy forms the basis of the region’s electricity production, although it is studying other alternative energy sources such as geothermal, hydro and wind.

In terms of the Tertiary Sector, the geographic dispersion of the islands of the archipelago generates significant movement of goods in the airports and regional ports, mainly by the exchange of inter-island products that allow to essentially supply the natural shortages of the smaller islands.

On the other hand, the same geographic dispersion, together with the distance separating the Region of the Portuguese Continent, generates large passenger traffic at regional airports, either for the exchange of inter-island services or for the circulation of tourists from island to island, or transit to and from the Region.

In addition, trade with the outside world through the import of cereals, fuels, machinery and transport equipment and raw materials and the export mainly of canned fish, mainly tuna destined for the Italian market, of dairy products, fish, timber and some agricultural products, play an important role in the context of the regional economy.

Representing a small percentage of this economy, but because they undoubtedly constitute products with a certain regional character, some of them being “compulsory purchase” for those who visit the Azores, Beetroot, Tobacco, Tea, Passionfruit and Pineapple, this one for be consumed mainly in fresh, can be considered as the main Açoreanas industrial cultures that, after being processed, either supply the local market or are exported.

Pineapple (Ananassa Sativus, Lindl.) Grown in greenhouses on the island of S. Miguel, circumscribed to the municipalities of Ponta Delgada, Lagoa and Vila Franca do Campo, on the south coast of São Miguel, originated in South America and was introduced on the same island as an ornamental plant in the mid-nineteenth century. Its culture was first aimed at supplying the well-to-do houses, being the same from the outset practiced in greenhouses heated only by the sun. The first greenhouses date back to 1864. The greenhouses are always rectangular, covered with whitewashed glass forming two waters with a slope of approximately 33 °. At the top of the roof, the “alboios” are used to regulate the temperature inside the greenhouse and to make the ventilation in the final stage of the crop. The result of a laborious process, which over the years has been guided by an improvement of the techniques used with a view to an increasingly better quality, the Ananás de São Miguel has already reached the status of “souvenir of the island”, for those who visit it .

On the other hand, the sugar beet cultivation practiced in São Miguel a little more than 100 years ago, which was initially intended for alcohol production, nowadays represents an industrial activity with some importance in the economy of the island, supplying its branches to the only existing sugar mill in the Region.

Likewise, the production of Tobacco also grown on the island of São Miguel, ensures the operation of the factories there, thus occupying this plant one of the top places in the scale of the industrial cultures of the Region.
Still in São Miguel, it is perhaps worth highlighting two other cultures whose productions, although not of the most significant in quantity, are nevertheless products that enhance their quality and are therefore highly sought after and appreciated not only by the residents but also by those that the island visit, as is the case:

of passion fruit, appreciated fruit that can be consumed in fresh or confectionery, but whose main application is its use as raw material in the manufacture of a typical, aromatic and tasty spirit drink, the Liquor of Passion fruit;
and Tea, whose plant was brought from China to the Azores around 1801, being first cultivated on Terceira Island and extending some tens of years later to San Miguel, where two Chinese were purposely moved to teach to its producers the secrets of the culture and the manufacture of this delicious drink.
At the moment circumscribed to a very localized zone of that last island, the plantations of the tea stand out in the landscape of the Gorreana, by the picturesque form of its lush and green shrub plants.