El Salvador’s Top 10 Exports

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Exports from El Salvador amounted to US$5.5 billion in 2015, up 3.3% since 2011 and up 4% from 2014 to 2015. El Salvador’s top 10 exports accounted for over two-thirds (69.6%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, El Salvador’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $52.95 billion in 2015.

Therefore, exports accounted for about 10.4% of total Salvadoran economic output.

From a continental perspective, $2.7 billion or 49.1% of Salvadoran exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 44.7% were sold to importers in Latin America (excluding Mexico) or the Caribbean. El Salvador shipped another 2.9% worth of goods to European members with 2.4% going to customers in Asia.

Given El Salvador’s population of 6.1 million people, its total $5.5 billion in 2015 exports translates to roughly $900 for every resident in that country.

El Salvador’s unemployment rate was 6.1% in 2015, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook.

El Salvador’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Salvadoran global shipments during 2015. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from El Salvador.

  1. Knit or crochet clothing: US$1.9 billion (34.4% of total exports)
  2. Plastics: $341.1 million (6.2%)
  3. Clothing (not knit or crochet): $288.1 million (5.3%)
  4. Paper: $270.9 million (4.9%)
  5. Sugar: $257 million (4.7%)
  6. Electronic equipment: $236.1 million (4.3%)
  7. Coffee, tea and spices: $150.5 million (2.7%)
  8. Cereal, milk preparations: $135.9 million (2.5%)
  9. Iron and steel: $124.4 million (2.3%)
  10. Pharmaceuticals: $124.1 million (2.3%)

Plastics were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 23.1% for the 5-year period starting in 2011.

In second place for improving export sales was knit or crochet clothing which was up 19.4%.

Salvadoran sugar posted the third-fastest gain in value at 19.1%.

Coffee was the fastest-declining Salvadoran export, down in value from $464.1 million in 2011 to $149.2 million during 2015.


The following types of Salvadoran 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. Knit or crochet clothing: US$1.6 billion (Up by 14.1% since 2011)
  2. Sugar: $232.5 million (Up by 20.5%)
  3. Clothing (not knit or crochet): $162.4 million (Up by 22.6%)
  4. Coffee, tea and spices: $139.1 million (Down by -69.6%)
  5. Meat and seafood preparations: $22.2 million (Down by -42.5%)
  6. Live trees and plants: $19.4 million (Up by 23.4%)
  7. Stone, plaster, cement: $17.7 million (Up by 161.2%)
  8. Alcoholic beverages: $13.6 million (Down by -41.7%)
  9. Other textiles, worn clothing: $11.6 million (Down by -31.3%)
  10. Milling products: $9.6 million (Down by -73.5%)

El Salvador has highly positive net exports in the international trade of apparel, which is a labor-intensive industry. In turn, these cashflows indicate El Salvador’s strong competitive advantages under the clothing product category.


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

  1. Oil: -US$1.3 billion (Down by -14.5% since 2011)
  2. Machines, engines, pumps: -$695.6 million (Up by 15.9%)
  3. Electronic equipment: -$530.8 million (Up by 37.2%)
  4. Vehicles: -$416.2 million (Up by 49.1%)
  5. Plastics: -$293.7 million (Down by -6.9%)
  6. Cotton: -$249.9 million (Down by -22%)
  7. Pharmaceuticals: -$220.7 million (Down by -17.3%)
  8. Cereals: -$216.9 million (Down by -34.3%)
  9. Knitted or crocheted fabric: -$204.9 million (Down by -38.6%)
  10. Other food preparations: -$190.1 million (Up by 3.3%)

El Salvador has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for fossil fuel-related products, particularly refined oil and petroleum gases.


Salvadoran Export Companies

No Salvadoran corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000 for 2015.

Wikipedia lists exporters from El Salvador. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Empresas ADOC (shoes)
  • Gpremper (internet technology)
  • TACA Airlines (airliner)
  • Unicomer Group (international retailer)

El Salvador’s capital city is San Salvador.

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

See also Sugar Exports by Country, Honduras Top 10 Exports and Guatemala’s Top 10 Import Partners

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 23, 2016

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on July 23, 2016

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 23, 2016

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 23, 2016

Wikipedia, List of Companies of El Salvador. Accessed on July 23, 2016

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 23, 2016