A Central American country sharing its borders with Mexico to the north, Belize to its northeast, Honduras to its east, and El Salvador to its southeast, the Republic of Guatemala exported an estimated US$9.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -9.9% drop since 2014 and a -10.9% downtick from 2017 to 2018.
The latest available country-specific data from 2017 shows that 79.8% of products exported from Guatemala were bought by importers in: United States (34.4% of the global total), El Salvador (11%), Honduras (8.8%), Nicaragua (5.1%), Mexico (4.6%), Costa Rica (3.8%), Netherlands (3.2%), Panama (2.6%), Canada (2%), Italy (1.5%), Japan (1.4%) and Dominican Republic (1.3%).
From a continental perspective, 41% of Guatemala exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 38% were sold to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean importers. Guatemala shipped another 9.8% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Asia (8.4%), Africa (2.3%) then Oceania (0.2%) led by New Zealand and Australia.
With a population of 16.6 million people making Guatemala the most highly populated country in Central America, Guatemala’s $9.8 billion worth of exports in 2018 translates to roughly $600 for every resident.
In macroeconomic terms, Guatemala’s total exported goods represent 6.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($145.6 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 6.7% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 8.2% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Guatemala’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Guatemala also provided $2.8 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 1.9% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Guatemala’s unemployment rate was 2.8% at March 2018 up from 2.3% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Guatemala’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Guatemalan global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Guatemala.
- Fruits, nuts: US$2 billion (19.9% of total exports)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $1.3 billion (13.7%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $947.8 million (9.7%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $574.7 million (5.9%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $494.7 million (5%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $431.4 million (4.4%)
- Vegetables: $413.7 million (4.2%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $321.5 million (3.3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $287.6 million (2.9%)
- Iron, steel: $256.3 million (2.6%)
By value, Guatemala’s top 10 exports accounted for 71.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Fruits and nuts was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 61.6% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales were vegetables thanks to a 54% increase.
Guatemala’s shipments of unknitted and non-crocheted clothing and accessories posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 30.1%.
The leading decliner among the top 10 Guatemala export categories was sugar and sugar confectionery which dropped -38.3% year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, bananas and plantains represent Guatemala’s most valuable exported product at 15% of the country’s total. In second place was coffee (8.3%) trailed by knitted or crocheted jerseys and pullovers (6.9%), sugar (4.9%), knitted or crocheted t-shirts and vests (4%), palm oil (also 4%) then melons, watermelons and papayas (3.3%).
The following types of Guatemalan 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 reflect 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.
- Fruits, nuts: US$1.9 billion (Up by 66.1% since 2017)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $1.2 billion (Up by 20.3%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $937.8 million (Down by -15%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $511.9 million (Down by -41.2%)
- Vegetables: $394 million (Up by 75.8%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $359.6 million (Down by -6.7%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $212 million (Up by 87%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $131.9 million (Down by -15.7%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $106 million (Up by 26.5%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $76.9 million (Down by -75.8%)
Guatemala has highly positive net exports particularly in the international trade of bananas, melons and nuts. In turn, these cashflows indicate Guatemala’s strong competitive advantages under the fruits and nuts product category.
Below are exports from Guatemala that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Guatemala’s goods trail Guatemalan importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$2.1 billion (Down by -13.6% since 2017)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.09 billion (Down by -22.8%)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.06 billion (Down by -18%)
- Vehicles: -$1 billion (Down by -25.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$704.7 million (Down by -4.1%)
- Paper, paper items: -$497.9 million (Up by 8.4%)
- Cereals: -$395.2 million (Down by -2.4%)
- Cotton: -$342.8 million (Up by 73.8%)
- Iron, steel: -$313.3 million (Down by -1.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$268.3 million (Down by -31.5%)
Guatemala has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for fossil fuels led by refined petroleum oils and petroleum gases.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Guatemala’s competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuels-related market, but also represent key opportunities for Guatemala to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations particularly alternative energy sources.
Guatemalan Export Companies
Wikipedia lists exporting businesses from Guatemala. Selected examples are shown below:
- Claro Americas (telecommunications)
- Corporación Multi Inversiones (agro-industrial conglomerate)
- Malher (food, beverages)
- Ron Zacapa Centenario (premium rum)
- Trama Textiles (hand-made woven goods)
Guatemala’s capital Guatemala City.
See also Costa Rica’s Top 10 Exports, El Salvador’s Top 10 Exports and Belize’s Top 10 Exports
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 9, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 4, 2018
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on June 4, 2018
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 9, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 9, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Guatemala. Accessed on June 4, 2018
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 9, 2019