Cuba’s Top 10 Exports

Cuba’s Top 10 Exports


Located at the confluence of the northern Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Cuba shipped US$1.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016. That dollar amount represents a -37% decline since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in and a -19.8% drop from 2015 to 2016.

Cuba’s top 10 exports account for three-quarters (75.5%) of the value for the Caribbean country’s overall shipments.

Based on statistics from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Cuba’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $128.5 billion in 2016 (on a purchasing power parity basis). Therefore, exports represent about 1.1% of total Cuban economic output.

Given Cuba’s population of 11.2 million people, its total $1.5 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $130 for every resident in that country.

Trading Economics forecasts Cuba’s unemployment rate to be 2.3% as of April 2017.

Cuba’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Cuban global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Cuba.

  1. Sugar, sugar confectionery: US$410.1 million (27.8% of total exports)
  2. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $257 million (17.4%)
  3. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $104.2 million (7.1%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: $84.3 million (5.7%)
  5. Fish: $78.5 million (5.3%)
  6. Nickel: $77.3 million (5.2%)
  7. Wood: $43.6 million (3%)
  8. Iron, steel: $23.4 million (1.6%)
  9. Copper: $20.9 million (1.4%)
  10. Mineral fuels including oil: $15.4 million (1%)

Wood was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 424.4% for the 7-year period starting in 2009.

In second place for improving export sales was sugar and sugar confectionery up by 41.4%.

Cuban copper posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 30.9%.

The leading decliner among the top 10 Cuban export categories was mineral fuels including oil, down by -91.5%.


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 is 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. Sugar, sugar confectionery: US$400.5 million (Up by 41.8% since 2009)
  2. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $254.3 million (Up by 2.8%)
  3. Nickel: $75.6 million (Down by -81.8%)
  4. Fish: $56.1 million (Up by 59.4%)
  5. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $39.3 million (Down by -61.4%)
  6. Collector items, art, antiques: $1.1 million (Up by 161%)
  7. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $640,000 (Up by 300%)
  8. Gems, precious metals: $560,000 (Down by -112.3%)
  9. Ores, slag, ash: $246,000 (Down by -99.1%)
  10. Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $157,000 (Down by -76.8%)

Cuba has highly positive net exports in the international trade of cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form. In turn, these cashflows indicate Cuba’s strong competitive advantages under the sugar and sugar confectionery category.


Overall, Cuba incurred a -$4.8 billion trade deficit for 2016. That negative balance represents a 69.1% increase from -$2.8 billion during 2009.

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.

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$991.3 million (Up by 43.3% since 2009)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$578.6 million (Up by 53.9%)
  3. Vehicles : -$552.6 million (Up by 79.3%)
  4. Cereals: -$388.6 million (Down by -20%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$235.1 million (Up by 25.8%)
  6. Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$230.1 million (Up by 60.4%)
  7. Meat: -$201.3 million (Down by -2.5%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$195.2 million (Up by 32.1%)
  9. Articles of iron or steel: -$166.6 million (Up by 27.2%)
  10. Dairy, eggs, honey: -$134.5 million (Up by 265.5%)

Cuba has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category.


Cuban Export Companies

No Cuban corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000 for 2016.

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)

Cuba’s capital city is Havana.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Most Valuable Cuban Export Products, Russia’s Top Import Partners and Sugar Exports by Country

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 26, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on April 26, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on April 26, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 26, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Cuba. Accessed on April 26, 2017

Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 26, 2017