El Salvador’s Top 10 Exports

El Salvador's flag

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El Salvador shipped US$5.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, up by 38% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in but down by -2.7% from 2015 to 2016.

El Salvador’s top 10 exports accounted for over two-thirds (69.7%) 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 $54.8 billion in 2016. Therefore, exports accounted for about 10.2% of total Salvadoran economic output.

From a continental perspective, $2.7 billion or 49.9% of Salvadoran exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 44.6% were sold to importers in Latin America (excluding Mexico) and other Caribbean nations. El Salvador shipped another 3.1% worth of goods to European members with 2.1% going to customers in Asia.

Given El Salvador’s population of 6.2 million people, its total $5.3 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $870 for every resident in the country.

El Salvador’s unemployment rate was 10.2% as of September 2016 according to Trading Economics, up from 6.1% in 2015.

El Salvador’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

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

  1. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$1.9 billion (34.7% of total exports)
  2. Plastics, plastic articles: $330.4 million (6.2%)
  3. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $279.5 million (5.2%)
  4. Paper, paper items: $262.5 million (4.9%)
  5. Electrical machinery, equipment: $248.1 million (4.6%)
  6. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $210.8 million (4%)
  7. Knit or crochet fabric: $140.3 million (2.6%)
  8. Pharmaceuticals: $138.5 million (2.6%)
  9. Cereal/milk preparations: $135.6 million (2.5%)
  10. Iron, steel: $119.1 million (2.2%)

Knit or crochet fabric was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 19.1% for the 7-year period starting in 2009.

In second place for improving export sales was plastics which rose 70.2%.

Salvadoran sugar shipments posted the third-fastest gain in value up 61.1%. Knit or crochet clothing and accessories appreciated 55.4% followed by electrical machinery and equipment’s 51.3% improvement.


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, accessories: US$1.6 billion (Up by 52.4% since 2009)
  2. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $184.3 million (Up by 66.4%)
  3. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $169.6 million (Up by 83.8%)
  4. Coffee, tea, spices: $99.7 million (Down by -56%)
  5. Meat/seafood preparations: $25.8 million (Down by -43.7%)
  6. Stone, plaster, cement, asbestos: $17.4 million (Up by 1,815%)
  7. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $16.3 million (Up by 718.9%)
  8. Milling products, malt, starches: $12 million (Down by -50%)
  9. Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $7.3 million (Down by -45.8%)
  10. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $2.2 million (Down by -96%)

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. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.1 billion (Up by 5.5% since 2009)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$662.5 million (Up by 41.8%)
  3. Vehicles : -$489.6 million (Up by 110.8%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$450.8 million (Up by 20.3%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$282.5 million (Up by 54.6%)
  6. Cereals: -$245.1 million (Up by 12.7%)
  7. Pharmaceuticals: -$214.4 million (Up by 7.9%)
  8. Miscellaneous food preparations: -$197.5 million (Up by 23.1%)
  9. Perfumes, cosmetics: -$174.7 million (Up by 56.3%)
  10. Manmade filaments: -$158.5 million (Up by 127.9%)

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 February 13, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 13, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 13, 2017

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