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$11.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 2.9% increase since 2015 and a 4% uptick from 2018 to 2019.
The latest available country-specific data 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, 39.7% of Guatemala exports by value were delivered to buyers located in North American countries while 38.8% were sold to importers in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Guatemala shipped another 9.7% worth of goods to Europe and 9.5% to Asia. Smaller percentages went to Africa (1.8%) and Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia.
A population of 17.6 million people in 2019 makes Guatemala the most highly populated country in Central America, Guatemala’s $11.2 billion in exported goods translates to roughly $650 worth per resident.
Guatemala’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Guatemalan global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Guatemala.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$1.3 billion (11.8% of total exports)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.2 billion (11.2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $1.1 billion (10.3%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $819 million (7.3%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $503.9 million (4.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $491.3 million (4.4%)
- Iron, steel: $392.2 million (3.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $345.3 million (3.1%)
- Vegetables: $338.5 million (3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $330.2 million (3%)
By value, Guatemala’s top 10 exports accounted for 62% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Coffee, tea and spices represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 17.5% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel via a 13.1% gain. Guatemala’s shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 10.9%.
The leading decliner among Guatemala’s top 10 export categories was animal or vegetable fat, oils and waxes thanks to a -13% drop 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 8.4% of the country’s total. In second place was sugar (6.2%), trailed by coffee (5.9%), nutmeg and cardamoms (5.8%), palm oil (3.5%), knitted or crocheted jerseys and pullovers (2.9%), knitted or crocheted t-shirts and vests (2.5%), electrical energy (2.3%), women’s blouses and shirts (also 2.3%) then iron ferroalloys (2.2%) then medication mixes in dosage (2.1%).
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.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$1.3 billion (Up by 17.1% since 2018)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.2 billion (Up by 2.3%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $1 billion (Down by -2.2%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $741.2 million (Up by 9.9%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $319.9 million (Down by -16.3%)
- Vegetables: $305 million (Up by 4.3%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $110.5 million (Down by -20.7%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $88.9 million (Down by -3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $86.7 million (Down by -24.6%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $42.1 million (Down by -5.4%)
Guatemala has notably positive net exports in the international trade of coffee and cardamom spices. In turn, these cashflows indicate Guatemala’s strong competitive advantages under the coffee, tea and spices 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$2.8 billion (Down by -1.7% since 2018)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.6 billion (Up by 7.6%)
- Vehicles: -$1.4 billion (Up by 0.9%)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.4 billion (Up by 9.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$741.7 million (Down by -8.8%)
- Cereals: -$489.8 million (Up by 14.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$430 million (Down by -2.6%)
- Paper, paper items: -$398.6 million (Down by -17.7%)
- Iron, steel: -$316.3 million (Down by -19.9%)
- Organic chemicals: -$275 million (Down by -9.1%)
Guatemala has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for fossil fuels related products particularly refined petroleum oils, coal 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 on 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)
In macroeconomic terms, Guatemala’s total exported goods represent 7.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($152.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 7.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 6.7% for 2018, seeming to indicate a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Guatemala’s total economic performance albeit based on a relatively short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Guatemala’s estimated unemployment rate was 2.5% in 2019 down from 2.8% at March 2018, according to Trading Economics.
Guatemala’s capital is Guatemala City.
See also Costa Rica’s Top 10 Exports, El Salvador’s Top 10 Exports and Belize’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on May 31, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 31, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 31, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 31, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on May 31, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Guatemala. Accessed on May 31, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on May 31, 2020
WorldOMeter, Guatemala Population. Accessed on May 31, 2020