An island country in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica shipped an estimated US$1.51 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 19.2% increase since 2015 but a -19.9% decline from 2018 to 2019.
The latest available country-specific data for 2018 shows that 89.2% of products exported from Jamaica were bought by importers in: the United States (31% of the global total), Norway (14.5%), Canada (11.1%), Netherlands (10.6%), Iceland (5.7%), Russia (3.6%), United Kingdom (2.9%), Hong Kong (2.7%), France (2.3%), Ghana (1.9%), China (also 1.9%) then Trinidad and Tobago (1%).
From a continental perspective, 42.2% of Jamaica’s exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 40.8% were sold to importers in Europe. Jamaica shipped another 7.5% worth of goods to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Smaller percentages went to Asia (5.9%), Africa (2.7%), and Oceania led by New Zealand (0.3%).
Given Jamaica’s population of 2.9 million people, its total $1.51 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $520 for every resident in the West Indian nation.
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 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Jamaica.
- Inorganic chemicals: US$944.5 million (62.8% of total exports)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $145.3 million (9.7%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $106.8 million (7.1%)
- Vegetables: $40.7 million (2.7%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $32.2 million (2.1%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $26.6 million (1.8%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $23.8 million (1.6%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $22.8 million (1.5%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $22.1 million (1.5%)
- Iron, steel: $12.7 million (0.8%)
Jamaica’s top 10 exports accounted for 91.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Beverages, spirits and vinegar was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 29.5% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales were miscellaneous food preparations via a 11.6% gain. Jamaica’s shipments of vegetables posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 11.1%.
The leading decliner among Jamaica’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -92.1% plunge.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, aluminum oxide or hydroxide were Jamaica’s most valuable exported product at 62.7% of the country’s total. In second place were aluminum ores and concentrates (7.1%) trailed by alcoholic beverages including spirits and liqueurs (5.8%), manioc roots or tubers, artichokes and sweet potatoes (2.5%), malt beer (1.8%), bread, biscuits, cakes and pastries (1.4%) then processed petroleum oils (also 1.4%).
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$852.1 million (Up by 3.2% since 2018)
- Ores, slag, ash: $106.8 million (Up by 7.9%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $65.6 million (Up by 575.3%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $18.5 million (Down by -3%)
- Vegetables: $18.1 million (Up by 9.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.7 million (Down by -37.5%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $973,000 (Reversing a -$14.2 million deficit)
- Woodpulp: $707,000 (Down by -18.6%)
- Copper: $376,000 (Reversing a -$9.7 million deficit)
Jamaica generated 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 -$3.3 billion trade deficit for 2019, down by -22.2% from -$4.2 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 -20.4% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$464.5 million (Down by -1.6%)
- Machinery including computers: -$428.9 million (Down by -20%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$239.9 million (Down by -24%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$177.2 million (Down by -14.8%)
- Cereals: -$105.6 million (Down by -23.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$101.6 million (Down by -33.8%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$95.1 million (Down by -4.9%)
- Iron, steel: -$85.9 million (Up by 16.2%)
- Paper, paper items: -$85.3 million (Down by -21.2%)
Jamaica incurred 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 and 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)
In macroeconomic terms, Jamaica’s total exported goods represent 5.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($27.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 5.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 5.6% for 2018. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Jamaica’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Jamaica’s unemployment rate was 7.3% at December 2019 down from 8.4% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Jamaica’s capital city is Kingston.
See also Bermuda’s Top 10 Exports, Cuba’s Top 10 Exports and Sugar Exports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 4, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 4, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, Jamaica. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Jamaica. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 4, 2020
July 11, 2019
WorldOMeter, Jamaica Population. Accessed on June 4, 2020