Located in South America’s northwest area and sharing part of its northern border with Panama, the Republic of Colombia shipped US$40.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 13.6% increase compared to 2015 but a -2.9% decline from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Colombian peso depreciated by -19.7% against the US dollar since 2015 and declined by -11% from 2018 to 2019. Colombia’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
From a continental perspective and based on 2018 data, 32.7% of Colombia’s exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 32.4% were sold to importers in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Colombia shipped another 20.9% worth of goods to Asia. Smaller percentages went to Europe (13.2%), Africa (0.6%) then Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (0.2%).
Given Colombia’s population of 50.4 million people, its total $40.5 billion in 2019 exports translates to about $800 for every resident in the South American sovereign state.
Colombia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Colombian global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Colombia.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$21.3 billion (52.5% of total exports)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $2.6 billion (6.5%)
- Gems, precious metals: $2.2 billion (5.5%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2 billion (4.9%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $1.4 billion (3.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.3 billion (3.3%)
- Iron, steel: $598.2 million (1.5%)
- Other chemical goods: $545.1 million (1.3%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: $534.4 million (1.3%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $513.8 million (1.3%)
Colombia’s top 10 exports accounted for over four-fifths (81.6%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Fruits and nuts represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 87.7% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was the miscellaneous chemicals category via a 40.0% gain. Colombia’s shipments of gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 36.2%.
The leading decliner among Colombia’s top 10 export categories was animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes due to a -17.5% drop year over year.
The following types of Colombian 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 represents 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$17.3 billion (Down by -16.3% since 2018)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $2.6 billion (Up by 15.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $2.1 billion (Up by 37%)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.8 billion (Up by 115.4%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $1.4 billion (Down by -1.9%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $288.9 million (Down by -29.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $212.3 million (Reversing a -$5.5 million deficit)
- Ores, slag, ash: $63.6 million (Up by 47.6%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $40.7 million (Up by 121.4%)
- Cocoa: $34 million (Down by -27.8%)
Colombia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of mineral fuels-related exports particularly crude oil and coal. In turn, these cashflows indicate Colombia’s strong competitive advantages under the oil product category.
Overall Colombia incurred a -$9.5 billion trade deficit during 2019, up 13.9% from the -$8.3 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Colombia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Colombia’s goods trail Colombian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$5.3 billion (Down by -2.3% since 2018)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$4.9 billion (Down by -7.3%)
- Vehicles: -$4.6 billion (Up by 25.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.7 billion (Down by -15.4%)
- Organic chemicals: -$1.7 billion (Down by -21.3%)
- Cereals: -$1.6 billion (Down by -1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$1.4 billion (Down by -3.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$987.3 million (Up by 1.5%)
- Iron, steel: -$847.8 million (Down by -26.7%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$765 million (Down by -35.6%)
Colombia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery particularly computers.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Colombia’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market, but also represent key opportunities for Colombia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Colombian Export Companies
Six Colombian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Colombian companies that Forbes included.
- Ecopetrol (fuel, petrochemicals)
- Grupo Argos (construction materials)
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Colombia. Selected examples are shown below.
- Alpina Productos Alimenticios (dairy products)
- Auteco (vehicles)
- Manuelita (sugar, fruits, vegetables)
- Organizacion Corona (ceramics)
- Ospina Coffee Company (coffee)
In macroeconomic terms, Colombia’s total exported goods represent 5.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($783 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 5.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 5.6% for 2018. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Colombia’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Colombia’s average unemployment rate was 9.7% same as prior year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Colombia’s capital city is Bogotá.
See also Colombia’s Top Trading Partners, Colombia’s Top 10 Imports and Top South American Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, Trade CentreCountry Profiles. Accessed on April 23, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 23, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on April 23, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 23, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 23, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 23, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on April 23, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Colombia. Accessed on April 23, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on April 23, 2020