Products from the state of Rhineland-Palatinate are in high demand on both domestic and international markets. With an export rate of roughly 50 percent, it ranks first in this category among Germany's states.
Its economy is remarkably diversified: Rhineland-Palatinate is a wine-growing center (two thirds of the country's wine comes from here) and an important wood producer as well as a major center of the chemical industry and a leading supplier of automobile components.
Distinctive regional industries include the gemstone industry in Idar-Oberstein, ceramic and glass products from the Westerwald, and the leather industry of the Hunsrück and the Palatinate. Small and medium-sized businesses form the backbone of the Rhineland-Palatinate economy.
The state's principal industrial employer is the chemical and plastics processing industry: BASF in Ludwigshafen is Europe's largest chemical factory complex and Rhineland-Palatinates largest manufacturing firm.
Also situated on the Rhine are the state's four next-largest companies: Boehringer (pharmaceuticals) in Ingelheim, Joh. A. Benckiser (chemicals, cosmetics) in Ludwigshafen, SGE Deutsche Holding (construction) in Ludwigshafen and the Schott Glassworks in Mainz. Europe's largest television network, ZDF (Channel Two), has its headquarters in Mainz, the state capital, as does the broadcasting company SAT.1.
Rhineland-Palatinate lies in the center of the Rhenish Schist Massif. One of the most beautiful landscapes in Germany - and the world - is the stretch of the Rhine Valley between Bingen and Bonn. Dotted with castles, it is steeped in legend, and its praises have been sung by countless poets, painters and musicians. Here and in the valley of the Mosel River grow wines which are prized by connoisseurs all over the world.
The other tributaries of the Rhine - the Nahe, Lahn and Ahr rivers - are likewise very scenic wine-growing regions. At the foot of the Palatinate Forest runs the "German Wine Route". The Rhine has been the region's economic artery since time immemorial. On it lie the cities of Mainz (185,000 inhabitants), Ludwigshafen (167,000 inhabitants) and Koblenz (109,000 inhabitants). Kaiserslautern has 102,000 inhabitants and the old Roman city of Trier has 100,000 inhabitants.