Located at the confluence of the northern Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Cuba shipped an estimated US$1.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -25.1% decline since 2015 and a -30.2% decrease from 2018 to 2019.
The latest available country-specific data from 2018 shows that 87% of products exported from Cuba were bought by importers in: Canada (23.8% of its global total), China (18.5%), Venezuela (17.6%), Spain (7.8%), Netherlands (5.2%), Singapore (3.3%), Belgium (2.2%), Hong Kong (2.1%), Germany (2%), Portugal (1.8%), France (1.6%) and Cyprus (1.1%).
Given Cuba’s population of 11.4 million people, its total $1.8 billion in 2018 exported products translates to roughly $145 for every resident in the Caribbean island country.
Cuba’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Cuban global shipments during 2019, at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Cuba.
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: US$332.9 million (20.6% of total exports)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $295.9 million (18.3%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $188.3 million (11.7%)
- Nickel: $176.5 million (10.9%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $121.2 million (7.5%)
- Fish: $106.9 million (6.6%)
- Wood: $56 million (3.5%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $47.2 million (2.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $26.6 million (1.6%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $21.3 million (1.3%)
Cuba’s top 10 exported product categories account for 85% of the value for the Caribbean country’s overall shipments.
Pharmaceuticals represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 2,485% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was the ores, slag and ash category via a 1,474% gain led by zinc and lead. Cuba’s shipments of sugar including sugar confectionery posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 64.7%.
The leading decliner among Cuba’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil, thanks to a -36.6% drop year over year.
Drilling down to the more detailed 4-digit HTS codes, Cuba’s most valuable exported goods are cigars, cigarillos and cigarettes (20.2% of its global total). In second place was sugar (18.2%) trailed by nickel matte and oxide sinters (10.4%), alcoholic beverages (7.5%), zinc ores and concentrates (6.8%), lobsters and other crustaceans (5.8%), lead ores and concentrates (3.9%), wood charcoal (3.4%), refined petroleum oils (2.9%) then natural honey (1.3%).
Based on 2018 data, the following types of Cuban 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.
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: US$278.4 million (Down by -3.5% since 2017)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $212.1 million (Down by -63.8%)
- Nickel: $174.7 million (Up by 26.9%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $101.1 million (Up by 38,178%)
- Fish: $75.2 million (Up by 9.1%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $40.3 million (Up by 42.9%)
- Wood: $8.2 million (Down by -36.8%)
- Gems, precious metals: $7.6 million (Down by -270.9%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $1.3 million (Down by -128.4%)
- Copper: $866,000 (Down by -136.1%)
Cuba has highly positive net exports in the international trade of tobacco as well as cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form. In turn, these cashflows indicate Cuba’s strong competitive advantages under the tobacco and sugar categories above.
Overall, Cuba incurred a -$4.3 billion trade deficit for 2018. That negative balance represents a -11.4% decrease from -$4.9 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Cuba that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Cuba’s goods trail Cuban importer spending on foreign products.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -US$492.2 million (Down by -16.8% since 2017)
- Vehicles: -$467.8 million (Down by -11.1%)
- Cereals: -$355.6 million (Down by -8.6%)
- Meat: -$276.1 million (Up by 2.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$238.8 million (Down by -10.7%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$198.1 million (Up by 19.9%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$185.1 million (Down by -1.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$163.5 million (Down by -16.2%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$161.7 million (Down by -13.8%)
- Other chemical goods: -$126.5 million (Down by -0.3%)
Cuba has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the electrical machinery and equipment category notably sound recording apparatus, recorded media and mobile phones.
Cuban Export Companies
No Cuban corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Cuba. Selected examples are shown below.
- Cubana de Aviación (airline)
- Cubatabaco (tobacco)
- Cuba Petróleo Unión (oil, gas)
- Havana Club (rum)
- Modelo Brewery (beer)
One key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Cuba’s average unemployment rate was 2% for 2019, compared to 1.7% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Cuba’s capital city is Havana.
See also Russia’s Top 10 Imports, Russia’s Top Trading Partners and Sugar Exports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on July 8, 2020
Forbes, Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 8, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 8, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 8, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 8, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Cuba. Accessed on July 8, 2020
Wikipedia, Cuba. Accessed on July 8, 2020
WorldOMeter, Cuba Population. Accessed on July 8, 2020