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 an estimated US$1.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a -37.9% decline since 2013 but a 26.9% increase from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Cuba’s exported goods plus services represent 13.6% of total Cuban economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

Given Cuba’s population of 11.2 million people, its total $1.9 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $170 for every resident in the Caribbean island 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 2017, 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.

Drilling down to 4-digit HTS codes, Cuba’s most valuable exported good is sugar ($555.3 million). In second place were cigars and cigarettes ($236 million), nickel matte and oxide sinters ($140.8 million), liquor and liqueurs ($115.2 million), lobsters and other crustaceans ($84.4 million) then refined petroleum oils ($71 million).

  1. Sugar, sugar confectionery: US$556.4 million (29.7% of total exports)
  2. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $243.3 million (13%)
  3. Nickel: $140.8 million (7.5%)
  4. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $129.8 million (6.9%)
  5. Fish: $89 million (4.8%)
  6. Mineral fuels including oil: $71.2 million (3.8%)
  7. Iron, steel: $46.4 million (2.5%)
  8. Wood: $43.3 million (2.3%)
  9. Pharmaceuticals: $42.3 million (2.3%)
  10. Copper: $25 million (1.3%)

Cuba’s top 10 exports account for almost three-quarters (74.1%) of the value for the Caribbean country’s overall shipments.

Propelled by booming international sales of refined petroleum oils, mineral fuels including oil was Cuba’s fastest-growing top 10 export category thanks to a robust 358.3% increase from 2016 to 2017.

In second place was nickel via its 82% uptick.

Cuba’s exported iron and steel posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 50.2%.

Two of the top categories declined year over year, namely Cuban exports of pharmaceuticals (down -52.7%) and wood (down -1.8%).


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.

  1. Sugar, sugar confectionery: US$548.7 million (Up by 35.2% since 2016)
  2. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $239.4 million (Up by 12%)
  3. Nickel: $137.8 million (Up by 82.4%)
  4. Fish: $69.2 million (Up by 22.4%)
  5. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $37.1 million (Up by 91.7%)
  6. Wood: $12.9 million (Reversing a -$4.3 million deficit)
  7. Explosives, pyrotechnics, matches: $2.1 million (Down by -74%)
  8. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $1.9 million (Up by 190.6%)
  9. Paper yarn, woven fabric: $506,000 (Up by 97.7%)
  10. Live animals: $265,000 (Down by -63.3%)

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 -$4.6 billion trade deficit for 2017. That negative balance represents a -14.3% decrease from -$5.4 billion during 2016.

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$978.9 million (Down by -5.7% since 2016)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$543 million (Down by -12.4%)
  3. Vehicles: -$475.3 million (Down by -18.7%)
  4. Cereals: -$385.1 million (Down by -0.9%)
  5. Mineral fuels including oil: -$385 million (Up by 64.8%)
  6. Meat: -$265.2 million (Up by 32.9%)
  7. Plastics, plastic articles: -$258.2 million (Down by -1.9%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$189.7 million (Down by -7.8%)
  9. Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$187.3 million (Down by -21.6%)
  10. Dairy, eggs, honey: -$186.4 million (Up by 41.3%)

Cuba has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category notably liquid pumps, piston engine parts and centrifuges including centrifugal dryers.


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)

Cuba’s capital city is Havana.

See also Cuba’s Top 10 Imports, Russia’s Top Trading Partners and Sugar Exports by Country

Research Sources:
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 18, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 18, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 18, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on August 18, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 18, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Cuba. Accessed on August 18, 2018

Wikipedia, Cuba. Accessed on August 18, 2018