Costa Rica’s Top 10 Exports

Costa Rica's flag

by FlagPictures.org

Bordered by fellow Central American countries Nicaragua and Panama, the Republic of Costa Rica shipped US$11.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 0.04% increase since 2013 and a 6.1% uptick from 2017 to 2018.

The latest data shows that 78.4% of products exported from Costa Rica were bought by importers in: United States (41.1% of the global total), Netherlands (6.03%), Belgium (6%), Panama (5.2%), Guatemala (5.1%), Nicaragua (4.3%), Honduras (3.5%), El Salvador (2.6%), Mexico (2.5%) and Dominican Republic (2.2%).

From a continental perspective, 44.3% of Costa Rican exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 28.4% were sold to importers in Latin America (excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean). Costa Rica shipped another 21.9% worth of goods to Europe with 6.5% going to customers in Asia.

Given Costa Rica’s population of 5 million people, its total $11.3 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $2,300 for every resident in the Central American country.

In macroeconomic terms, Costa Rica’s total exported goods represent 12.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($88.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 12.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 15.6% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Costa Rica’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Costa Rica also provided $9.1 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 10.3% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Costa Rica’s unemployment rate was 10.3% at March 2019 up from 10.3% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

Costa Rica’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Costa Rican global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Costa Rica.

  1. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: US$2.7 billion (Up by 17.1% since 2017)
  2. Fruits, nuts: $2.1 billion (Up by 1.9%)
  3. Miscellaneous food preparations: $308.9 million (Up by 14.6%)
  4. Coffee, tea, spices: $303 million (Up by 3.1%)
  5. Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $219.8 million (Down by -12.9%)
  6. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $117.5 million (Down by -1.5%)
  7. Vegetables: $97.6 million (Up by 34.4%)
  8. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $82.6 million (Up by 6.9%)
  9. Dairy, eggs, honey: $81.8 million (Down by -6.6%)
  10. Miscellaneous manufactured articles: $75.2 million (Up by 48.5%)

Costa Rica’s top 10 exports accounted for three-quarters (75.1%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Optical, technical and medical apparatus were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 14.6% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving international sales were Costa Rica’s exported pharmaceuticals, up by 12.3%.

Rubber and articles made from rubber from Costa Rica exporters posted the third-fastest gain thanks to a 9% year-over-year gain.

The sole decliner was the vegetable, fruit or nut preparations category due to a -10.5% retreat.

At the more detailed Harmonized Tariff System code level, Costa Rica’s most valuable exported products are electro-medical equipment (18.5% of global total), pineapples (9.3%), bananas (9.2%), orthopedic appliances (6.3%), miscellaneous food preparations (3.8%), coffee (2.8%), new rubber tires (1.7%) then fruit and vegetable juices (1.6%).

Advantages

The following types of Costa Rican 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.

  1. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: US$2.7 billion (Up by 17.1% since 2017)
  2. Fruits, nuts: $2.1 billion (Up by 1.9%)
  3. Miscellaneous food preparations: $308.9 million (Up by 14.6%)
  4. Coffee, tea, spices: $303 million (Up by 3.1%)
  5. Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $219.8 million (Down by -12.9%)
  6. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $117.5 million (Down by -1.5%)
  7. Vegetables: $97.6 million (Up by 34.4%)
  8. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $82.6 million (Up by 6.9%)
  9. Dairy, eggs, honey: $81.8 million (Down by -6.6%)
  10. Miscellaneous manufactured articles: $75.2 million (Up by 48.5%)

Costa Rica has highly positive net exports in the international trade of medical, surgical, dental or veterinary instruments, orthopedic appliances and similar equipment. In turn, these cashflows indicate Costa Rica’s strong competitive advantages under the optical, technical and medical apparatus category.

Opportunities

Overall Costa Rica incurred a -$5.3 billion trade deficit during 2018, about the same as one year earlier.

Below are exports from Costa Rica that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Costa Rica’s goods trail Costa Rican importer spending on foreign products

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.7 billion (Up by 15.4% since 2017)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$1.4 billion (Up by 4.9%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.2 billion (Up by 0.5%)
  4. Vehicles: -$1.1 billion (Down by -14.5%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$969.7 million (Up by 9%)
  6. Paper, paper items: -$598.9 million (Up by 9.1%)
  7. Iron, steel: -$462.2 million (Up by 45.1%)
  8. Pharmaceuticals: -$460.9 million (Down by -9.2%)
  9. Articles of iron or steel: -$336.4 million (Up by 0.5%)
  10. Cereals: -$318 million (Up by 5.6%)

Costa Rica has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for refined petroleum oils and petroleum gas under the mineral fuels including oil product category.

Companies

Costa Rican Export Companies

Not one Costa Rican corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.

Wikipedia does list some exporters based in Costa Rica. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Café Britt (coffee)
  • Cerveceria Costa Rica (brewery)
  • Dos Pinos (dairy products)
  • Florida Ice and Farm Company (brewery, food processor)
  • Nature Air (airliner)
  • Ujarrás (food)


 

Costa Rica’s capital city is San José.

See also Bananas Exports by Country, Coffee Exports by Country and Capital Facts for San José, Costa Rica

Research Sources:
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook report on Central America: Costa Rica. Accessed on April 6, 2019

Forbes 2018 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 6, 2019

Foreign Trade , United States Census Bureau. Accessed on April 6, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 6, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 6, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 6, 2019

Wikipedia, Costa Rica. Accessed on April 6, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 2, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Costa Rica. Accessed on April 6, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 2, 2019