A North American island country in the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles region, Barbados exported US$457.7 million worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -4.8% dip since 2014 and a -5.7% setback from 2017 to 2018.
From a continental perspective, over 40% of Barbadian exports by value are delivered to Latin American and other Caribbean countries. North America buys about a third of total shipments from Barbados, with less than 10% going to Europe and roughly 4% arriving in Asia.
Given Barbados’s population of 293,131 people, the total $457.7 million in 2018 Barbadian exports translates to roughly $1,600 for every person living on the Caribbean island.
In macroeconomic terms, Barbados’s total exported goods represent 8.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($5.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 8.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 9.5% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Barbados’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Barbados also provided $1.3 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 25.4% of GDP in PPP. These metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Barbados’s unemployment rate was forecast to be 9.4% at July 2019 up from 8.2% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Barbados’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Barbadian global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall Barbadian exports.
At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, the most valuable exported products from Barbados are refined petroleum oils (23.8%), alcohol including spirits and liqueurs (11.1%), medicines for prophylactic or therapeutic purposes (6.2%), jewelry (5.3%), hydraulic cements (4.5%), orthopedic appliances (3.4%), paper labels (2.9%), crude oil (2.4%), margarine (2.2%) then bread, biscuits, cakes and pastries (2%).
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$121 million (26.4% of total exports)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $56.2 million (12.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $29.9 million (6.5%)
- Gems, precious metals: $28 million (6.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $20.9 million (4.6%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $20.7 million (4.5%)
- Paper, paper items: $16.9 million (3.7%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $12.6 million (2.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $10.9 million (2.4%)
- Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $10 million (2.2%)
Barbados’ top 10 exports account for nearly three-quarters (71.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Salt, sulphur, stone and cement showed the greatest percentage increase since 2017 via its 24.6% appreciation.
Exported tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes and ink gained 23.4% year over year.
The gems and precious metals category gained 17% mainly thanks to stronger revenues for Barbados’ exported jewelry.
The sole decline for the top 10 export categories was a -25.1% cutback for electrical machinery and equipment.
The following types of Barbadian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: US$12.8 million (Up by 0.4% since 2017)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $8.2 million (Down by -34.4%)
- Gems, precious metals: $5.3 million (Up by 299.9%)
- Live animals: $696,000 (Up by 39.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $654,000 (Down by -70.2%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $351,000 (Reversing a -$852,000 deficit)
- Woodpulp: $43,000 (Up by 4.9%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $28,000 (Down by -17.6%)
Barbados has highly positive net exports in the international trade of cement and, to a much lesser degree, limestone and gravel. In turn, these cashflows indicate Barbados’s strong competitive advantages under the salt, sulphur, stone and cement product category.
Overall, Barbados incurred a -$1.1 billion product trade deficit for 2018.
Below are exports from Barbados that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Barbados’s goods trail Barbadian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$250.7 million (Up by 21.8% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: -$113.6 million (Down by -12.8%)
- Vehicles: -$85.6 million (Down by -9.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$74.6 million (Down by -10.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$51.2 million (Up by 6.7%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: -$37.7 million (Up by 5.6%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$30.2 million (Up by 1.4%)
- Meat: -$27.7 million (Down by -0.3%)
- Wood: -$25.0 million (Down by -10.8%)
- Paper, paper items: -$24.5 million (Down by -1.6%)
Barbados has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for refined petroleum oils, petroleum gases and petroleum coke under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Barbadian Export Companies
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Barbados. Selected examples are shown below:
- Banks Barbados Brewery (alcoholic beverages)
- Barbados National Oil Company (oil and gas)
- Mount Gay Rum (alcoholic beverages)
- Solar Dynamics (solar heaters)
- West Indies Sugar & Trading Co (sugar)
- WIBISCO (biscuits, other food products)
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 5, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 4, 2019
The World Factbook, Central America and Caribbean: Barbados, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on July 4, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on July 4, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 4, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Barbados. Accessed on February 5, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 4, 2019