Most inhabitants of Sulawesi gain their income from the land, the forests and the sea. However, there is many variation in the way of life support. North- and South-Sulawesi are more wealthy than Central- and Southeast-Sulawesi because of their rich vulcanic soil.
Agriculture and cattle
The cultivation of crops - rice, corn, cassave, vegetables and fruit - probably puts to work more people than any other economical activity. Rice is mainly grown on sawah's, but in some areas the ricefields are dry. The rice culture is concentrated on the fertile, irrigated southern peninsula, from which a big surplus is exported to other parts of Indonesia.
North-Sulawesi also grows a lot of it's own food, but the main agrarian wealth comes from tree crops, especially coconuts and clove, and nutmeg. Much money is still being made in the trade of clove - mainly in Minahasa, which are mainly used to produce kretek cigarettes. North-Sulawesi produces about 30 per cent of the country's clove. The 'clove-fever' has spread over the entire island in the last decades however, because even a few trees in the back yard can bring in a small fortune.
Commercial crops, koffee in South-Sulawesi and cacao in western Southeast-Sulawesi, are getting more important as well as secundary crops like soybeans. The agricultural production on the island is small scaled and big companies are rare. Most agriculture is done by small farmers on pieces of ground that are in the hands of the family. Cattle is important - South-Sulawesi is the third cattle-producing province of the country-, but growing still takes place at small scale, there are only a few big companies.
Fishery, forests and mines
Fishery employs a big number of residents of Sulawesi. In the coastal fishery, traditional boats and techniques are used, but modern fisheries and processing points can also be found on Sulawesi nowadays. The most remarkable development is the installation and extention of the coastal fishing farms and shrimp farms, mainly in the south. Much money can be earned with freezing shrimps for exports to Japan.
Other important natural resources are forestry and mining. Due to it's expensife tropical wood, Central-Sulawesi has important income from forestry. Southeast-Sulawesi produces teakwood. Ratten is valuable as well.In the past, wood and rattan were exported without processing it first, but the government has banned the exports of unprocessed forest products.
Mining is dominated by the niccle mines from Inco in Saroako, South-Sulawesi; where ore of low quality is partially processed for the export; only recently the company succeeded in reaching the break-even point. Niccle ore is also mined in Pomalaa in Southeast-Sulawesi, and asphalt on Pulau Buton. The recent years were known for it's gold rush in Indonesia; for what Sulawesi concerned, this 'fever' was limited to the northern district of Bolaang Mongondow. Deposits of copper in North-Sulawesi and a number of other minerals offer good expectations for mining in the future.
Unless the richness of natural resources the industry has only contributed a little to the economical development. Small scale processing of agricultural products and production of food are fairly widespread. In Makassar, a big wheat-mill is used and in North-Sulawesi are several plants which produce coconut-related products. Several concrete-plants and limestone mines in South-Sulawesi supply for the huge demand and south of Makassar is a papermill. Recently, suger plants have been built in the district of Bone.
On the whole, Sulawesi has to deal with the big distances to important local markets. It has small groups of local populatioons and high cost of labour, compared to the densely populated Jawa, where most Indonesian factories are.
The service sector, like transport and tourism, is getting more important. Due to the extension of the road system, transport over land is lightyears ahead compared to the situation in the 1960's. Air connections between the provincial capitals and some smaller points are also in development.
Sulawesi has been famous for it's sea transport for centuries. The armada of sailing shops from South- and Southeast-Sulawesi, mainly motorized by now, still is used for much of the inter island transport. High expectations of the government go to a much more recent branch: tourism. Until now this developement has been limited to South-Sulawesi and a little bit to the north, the only two areas with enough infrastructure.