An island country in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica shipped an estimated US$1.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 4.6% increase since 2014 and a 15.9% uptick from 2017 to 2018.
The latest available country-specific data from 2017 shows that 84.5% of products exported from Jamaica were bought by importers in: United States (45% of the global total), Netherlands (12%), Canada (9.6%), Iceland (3.9%), Russia (3.7%), France (2%), Georgia (1.6%), China (1.4%), Hong Kong (1.35%), Cameroon (1.34%), Ghana (1.3%) and Trinidad/Tobago (also 1.3%).
From a continental perspective, 55.3% of Jamaica exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 23.6% were sold to importers in Europe. Jamaica shipped another 9.7% worth of goods to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Smaller percentages went to Asia (7.3%), Africa (2.7%) then Oceania (0.4%) led by New Zealand and Australia.
Given Jamaica’s population of 2.8 million people, its total $1.5 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $540 for every resident in the West Indian nation.
In macroeconomic terms, Jamaica’s total exported goods represent 5.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($27 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 5.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 6.2% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Jamaica’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Jamaica also provided $3.8 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 14.2% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Jamaica’s unemployment rate was 8% at March 2019 down from 9.8% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Jamaica’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level represent the highest dollar value in Jamaican global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Jamaica.
- Inorganic chemicals: US$898.6 million (59.2% of total exports)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $150.6 million (9.9%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $138.9 million (9.2%)
- Vegetables: $41.4 million (2.7%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $29.2 million (1.9%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $28.5 million (1.9%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $24.1 million (1.6%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $20.2 million (1.3%)
- Ships, boats: $20.1 million (1.3%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $14.4 million (0.9%)
Jamaica’s top 10 exports accounted for 90% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories during 2017, up by 33.9% year over year propelled by accelerating exports of refined petroleum oils.
Ships and boats represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 7,220% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was inorganic chemicals thanks to a 73.4% improvement.
Jamaica’s shipments of ores, slag and ash posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 50.3% year over year.
The leading decliner among the top 10 Jamaica export categories was sugar and sugar confectionery via a -22.5% reduction.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, aluminum oxide or hydroxide were Jamaica’s most valuable exported product at 59.2% of the country’s total. In second place was aluminum ores and concentrates (9.2%) trailed by alcoholic beverages including spirits and liqueurs (5.6%), manioc roots/tubers, artichokes and sweet potatoes (2.8%), malt beer (2.5%), coffee (2.2%), bread, biscuits, cakes and pastries (1.3%), sauces, mixed condiments or seasonings (1.3%) yachts and other pleasure or sports vessels (1.1%), then iron or steel scrap (1.1%).
The following types of Jamaican 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.
- Inorganic chemicals: US$694.1 million (Up by 76.7% since 2017)
- Ores, slag, ash: $138.7 million (Up by 50.2%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $81.4 million (Reversing a -$11.5 million deficit)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $22 million (Down by -8.8%)
- Vegetables: $19.3 million (Up by 4.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $4.2 million (Up by 6.8%)
- Ships, boats: $2.6 million (Reversing a -$7.5 million deficit)
- Woodpulp: $1.6 million (Up by 17.6%)
- Lead: $530,000 (Reversing a -$55,000 deficit)
Jamaica has highly positive net exports in the international trade of inorganic chemicals. In turn, these cashflows indicate Jamaica’s strong competitive advantages under the inorganic chemicals category.
Overall Jamaica incurred a -$3.6 billion trade deficit for 2018, down by -20% from -$4.5 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Jamaica that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Jamaica’s goods trail Jamaican importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.1 billion (Down by -9.6% since 2017)
- Vehicles: -$456.8 million (Down by -32.7%)
- Machinery including computers: -$443.2 million (Down by -4.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$297.2 million (Up by 4.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$181.9 million (Down by -6.4%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$126.4 million (Up by 18.2%)
- Cereals: -$125.7 million (Down by -6.8%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$83.6 million (Down by -17.2%)
- Paper, paper items: -$81.7 million (Down by -20.7%)
- Wood: -$81.1 million (Down by -2.1%)
Jamaica has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category, particularly for both refined and crude petroleum oils and, to a lesser extent, petroleum gases then coal.
Jamaican Export Companies
No Jamaican-based corporation ranks among the Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list exports-related companies from Jamaica. Selected examples are shown below:
- Alpart (aluminum)
- Desnoes & Geddes (brewery)
- J. Wray and Nephew Ltd (alcoholic beverages)
- Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (oil, gas)
- Port Authority of Jamaica (ports/shipping)
Jamaica’s capital city is Kingston.
See also Bermuda’s Top 10 Exports, Cuba’s Top 10 Exports and Sugar Exports by Country
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 19, 2018
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 11, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 19, 2018
The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on August 19, 2018
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 11, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 11, 2019
Wikipedia, Jamaica. Accessed on August 19, 2018
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Jamaica. Accessed on August 19, 2018
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 11, 2019