Primary Sector – Concept, other sectors and examples

We explain what the primary sector is and the other sectors into which economic activity is divided. Characteristics and examples of each sector.

Primary sector
The primary sector is usually part of the economies of developing countries.

What is the primary sector?

The primary sector is the sector of the economy in which activities involving the exploitation of natural resources are carried out for the extraction of raw materials.

Raw materials can be used for direct consumption or used by other economic sectors for the production of goods and services. Some primary activities are: livestock, agriculture, felling of trees, fishing, among others.

Primary activities were developed by humans since prehistoric times and they are essential to supply food and resources to the world population. For example: harvesting oranges, shearing sheep’s wool or planting corn.

Because there is no product elaboration (only collection from the natural environment that provides it), primary activities are often the basis of the economy of developing countries.

In addition to the primary sector, There are also the secondary, tertiary, quaternary and quinary sectors of the economy. Each one of them fulfills a specific function within the production, distribution and commercialization of goods and services. However, the first three sectors encompass almost all economic activities.

Characteristics of the primary sector

Some characteristics of the primary sector:

  • It is one of the sectors in which economic activity is divided.
  • It is made up of activities that are responsible for the exploitation of natural resources to obtain raw materials.
  • Obtains raw material for direct use or for the production of other goods (made by the secondary sector of the economy).
  • It is the sector of the economy that prevails in underdeveloped countries, since it does not involve so much technology, innovation or industrial development.
  • It is formed by the first economic activities that human beings developed, such as fishing.
  • Provides food for human and animal consumption.

Primary sector activities

The main activities of the primary sector include:

  • Cattle raising. It is the economic activity in which animals are raised, such as cattle, sheep or pigs, for their consumption or exploitation. Products such as dairy, meat, leather, among others, are obtained from livestock.
  • farming. It is the economic activity in which fruits and vegetables are grown to be used as food for human beings. Cereals are also sown, such as wheat or soybeans, to produce food such as flour, oil or semolina from them.
  • Fishing. It is the economic activity in which fish and other aquatic animals, such as crustaceans and mollusks, are obtained for human consumption.
  • Beekeeping. It is the economic activity in which bees are raised to obtain the resources they make, such as honey that is used for direct consumption.
  • Logging. It is the economic activity in which trees are cut down to obtain resources such as wood, which is used both as a source of energy and in the production of goods.
  • Mining. It is the economic activity in which mining deposits are exploited for the extraction of minerals such as gold, copper and silver. Mining that exploits the deposits to obtain hydrocarbons is not a primary but a secondary activity.

Secondary sector

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Secondary activities are responsible for the transformation of raw materials.

The secondary sector of the economy comprises the production of products from raw materials obtained by the primary sector. This area uses machinery, which is why it is also known as the “industrial sector”.

Secondary activities are fundamental within the economy and are typical of developed countries, since they use technology and machinery. The raw material that is transformed makes it possible to generate goods with a greater added value.

Some examples of activities in this sector are: food processing, beverage processing, hydrocarbon distillation, the automotive industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the chemical industry, the textile industry, the tobacco industry, construction, among others.

Third sector

The tertiary sector of the economy is the one that offers services to society and industries for the satisfaction of different needs. This area is also known as the “service sector”.

Some examples of tertiary activities are: transportation, water services, insurance companies, banks, commerce, electricity services, gas services, internet services, health services, telecommunications, security services, entertainment, among others.

Quaternary sector

The quaternary sector of the economy includes intangible activities, that is, not visible. Its function is the development of specialized research, innovation and information. In this sector, companies (primary, secondary or tertiary) usually invest, since this helps them to develop and expand.

Some examples of quaternary activities are: consulting, development and planning, scientific research, information technology, among others.

Quinary sector

The fifth sector of the economy includes the non-routine, non-profit production services like culture, education, entertainment and art. However, few economists refer to the existence of a quinary sector.

Also included in this area are the domestic activities that a person carries out within their home.