Popular economic activities in Westmoreland are tourism and agriculture. Tourism now plays an important role in the parish’s development. Agriculture, however, has always held a secure spot in Westmoreland’s economy with the historically prominent Frome Sugar Estate.
Mining is not a very prominent industry in the parish but residents are employed at bauxite companies in neighbouring St Elizabeth and Manchester.
Sugar cane, the main crop produced in Westmoreland, thrives well due to the abundance of rainfall and the resulting fertile soil.
The major sugar estate in Westmoreland, Frome Sugar Estate, was built in 1938. This Estate not only marks the beginning of an era in sugar production but it has also played an important role in Jamaica’s history. It was the centre of activities in the struggle towards self-government. At a time when the West Indies Sugar Company (WISCO) had a factory on the estate, the workers began a strike due to poor working conditions and wages and damaged the estate by fire. This led to a violent uproar in which many persons were killed and injured.
The strike at Frome triggered strikes in Kingston and other sections of the island that eventually led to the arrest and imprisonment of Alexander Bustamante who later became a leader of the emerging labour movement.
At present, Frome, along with Monymusk is the largest estate in the island. Together they produce about 1/3 of the Jamaican sugar crop. The total area of Frome is 30,000 acres, about 1/7 that of the parish. It is the greatest single source of employment of the parish.
In addition to sugar cane, Westmoreland was once well known for its production of rice, which was grown on the marshlands for commercial use.
Agricultural activities once provided a leading source of income in Westmoreland until the early 1970s when Negril was developed as a major tourist destination.
The manufacturing sector is the third largest sector in the parish. The sector produces selected manufactured items that include food and drink, beverages and tobacco, animal feed, textiles and textile products and printing.
Westmoreland has contributed greatly to the tourist industry, adding to Jamaica’s popularity as a prime Caribbean tourist destination. The popular 7-mile long Negril beach complements the parish’s natural attraction to visitors.
Negril has been described as a “stretch of sun, sand, surf, silence and solitude … the island’s last outpost of tranquility…”
It was formerly a small fishing village accessible only by parochial road from Savanna-la-Mar. In 1950 this western tip of the island was opened as a tourist resort, experiencing growth during the 60s and 70s with a few small villas and hotel operations along the beach. These humble beginnings of a tourism Mecca lay the foundation for a thriving industry as investors acquired lots and constructed small hotels along the coast of Negril.
Negril is now the third largest employer in the accommodation sub sector of the tourist industry.
The hotels, located on the beautiful white sand beach stretching along Norman Manley Boulevard, offer one of the alternatives provided by Negril. Another alternative offered to tourists and locals are the hotels and guesthouses found in the more secluded and rustic ‘west end’ of Negril. It is here that diving off the cliffs and watching the sunset are quite popular relaxing activities.
Although tourism in Negril is known world wide, tourists are now becoming attracted to the natural scenery and the exceptional foliage of the deeper rural sections of Westmoreland.
Parish Council Divisions
East – Bethel Town
Leamington Luther Buchanan – Member of Parliament
Central – Frome
Savanna-la-Mar Roger Clarke – Member of Parliament
West – Sheffield
Little London Wykeham McNeil – Member of Parliament