Nicaragua’s Top 10 Exports

Nicaragua flag


The biggest country found on the Central American isthmus separating the Caribbean Sea from the Pacific Ocean, the Republic of Nicaragua shipped US$5.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017.

That dollar amount reflects a 14.8% gain since 2013 but a -5.2% downtick from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Nicaragua’s exported goods plus services represent 40.3% of total Nicaraguan economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes a sizable share of re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective using 2015 metrics, two-thirds (66.1%) of Nicaraguan exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 22.9% were sold to importers in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Nicaragua shipped another 6.8% worth of goods to Europe with 3.3% going to Asia and just 0.6% sent to Africa.

Given Nicaragua’s population of 6 million people, its total $5.3 billion in 2017 exports translates to approximately $900 for every resident in that country.

Trading Economics projects that Nicaragua’s unemployment rate to be 3.4% as of June 2018.

Nicaragua’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Nicaraguan global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Nicaragua.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Nicaragua’s most valuable export products are insulated wire or cable followed by knitted or crocheted T-shirts and vests, coffee, knitted or crocheted jerseys and pullovers then gold.

  1. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$1.2 billion (23.1% of total exports)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: $735.1 million (13.9%)
  3. Coffee, tea, spices: $506.5 million (9.6%)
  4. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $437.2 million (8.3%)
  5. Meat: $437.1 million (8.3%)
  6. Gems, precious metals: $387 million (7%)
  7. Fish: $293.8 million (5.6%)
  8. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $203.4 million (3.9%)
  9. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $166.7 million (3.2%)
  10. Dairy, eggs, honey: $158.6 million (3%)

Nicaragua’s top 10 exports account for 86.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Sugar and sugar confectionery was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories via its 29.2% increase from 2016 to 2017.

In second place for improving international sales was Nicaragua’s exported meat, up by 26%.

Shipments of tobacco and manufactured substitutes posted the third-fastest gain in value with a 2.8% rise in value.

Leading the decliners was the electrical machinery and equipment category which depreciated by -34.5%.


The following types of Nicaraguan 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.

  1. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$1 billion (Down by -0.5% since 2016)
  2. Coffee, tea, spices: $501.7 million (Up by 3.6%)
  3. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $419.4 million (Up by 2.7%)
  4. Meat: $416.3 million (Up by 26.2%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: $382.7 million (Down by -12%)
  6. Fish: $290.5 million (Up by 4.1%)
  7. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $165.6 million (Up by 22.1%)
  8. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $139.2 million (Up by 35.4%)
  9. Electrical machinery, equipment: $119.7 million (Down by -70.6%)
  10. Oil seeds: $118.4 million (Up by 39.4%)

Nicaragua has highly positive net exports in the international trade of apparel. In turn, these cashflows indicate Nicaragua’s strong competitive advantages under both the knit or unknit and crochet or non-crochet clothing and accessories categories.


Overall, Nicaragua incurred a -$541.4 million trade deficit for 2017 down -24.3% from -$715 million in red ink one year earlier.

Below are exports from Nicaragua that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Nicaragua’s goods trail Nicaraguan importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$486.7 million (Up by 44.1% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$419.5 million (Down by -22.3%)
  3. Vehicles: -$347.9 million (Down by -17%)
  4. Knit or crochet fabric: -$300.3 million (Down by -3.4%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$277 million (Down by -3.4%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: -$165.7 million (Down by -31.9%)
  7. Paper, paper items: -$154.1 million (Up by 11.7%)
  8. Cotton: -$140.6 million (Up by 9.3%)
  9. Iron, steel: -$122 million (Down by -13.2%)
  10. Other chemical goods: -$114.9 million (Down by -1.1%)

Nicaragua has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category, notably due to red ink amounts recorded for petroleum oils and gases.


Nicaraguan Export Companies

Not one Nicaraguan corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.

Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Nicaragua. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Compañía Cervecera de Nicaragua (brewery)
  • ECAMI (alternative energy)
  • El Castillo del Cacao (chocolate)
  • Flor de Caña (rum)
  • Gelateria Italiana (ice cream)
  • Joya de Nicaragua (cigars)
  • Kola Shaler Industrial (soft drinks)

Nicaragua’s capital city is Managua, a word that can mean either “adjacent to the water” or “place of the chief”.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Sugar Exports by Country, Top Milk Exporting Countries and Capital Facts for Managua, Nicaragua

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 25, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on June 25, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 25, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 25, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Nicaragua. Accessed on June 25, 2018

Wikipedia, Managua. Accessed on June 25, 2018

Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 25, 2018