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 2016. That dollar amount results from a 277.8% gain since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in and a 12.8% uptick from 2015 to 2016.

Nicaragua’s top 10 exports accounted for 88% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Nicaragua’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $35.8 billion in 2016 (on a purchasing power parity basis). Therefore, exports represent an estimated 14.7% of total Nicaraguan economic output.

Using 2015 metrics, 66.1% of Nicaraguan exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 23% were sold to importers in Latin America (excluding Mexico) and the Caribbean. Nicaragua shipped another 6.8% worth of goods to Europe with 3.3% going to Asia.

Given Nicaragua’s population of 6 million people, its total $5.3 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $900 for every resident in that country.

Trading Economics projects that Nicaragua’s unemployment rate was 6.3% in the second quarter of 2017.

Nicaragua’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Nicaraguan global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Nicaragua.

  1. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$1.2 billion (22.6% of total exports)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: $1.1 billion (21.1%)
  3. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $437.1 million (8.3%)
  4. Coffee, tea, spices: $434.6 million (8.3%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: $417.9 million (7.9%)
  6. Meat: $326.2 million (6.2%)
  7. Fish: $287.6 million (5.5%)
  8. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $190.4 million (3.6%)
  9. Dairy, eggs, honey: $133.6 million (2.5%)
  10. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $104.4 million (2%)

Knit or crochet clothing and accessories was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up from a comparatively tiny $244,000 in 2009.

In second place for improving export sales was unknit and non-crocheted clothing and accessories which rose 92,711%.

Nicaraguan electrical machinery and equipment posted the third-fastest gain in value which appreciated 17,529%.

The slowest grower among the top 10 Nicaraguan export categories was dairy, eggs and honey which improved by a modest 3.8%.


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 is 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$1.1 billion (Down by -8959.1% since 2009)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: $443.4 million (Down by -289.6%)
  3. Coffee, tea, spices: $432.2 million (Up by 84.6%)
  4. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $421.9 million (Down by -2483.9%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: $414.4 million (Up by 351%)
  6. Meat: $309.8 million (Up by 33.2%)
  7. Fish: $274.8 million (Up by 154.6%)
  8. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $138.9 million (Up by 7255.4%)
  9. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $83.8 million (Up by 52.5%)
  10. Oil seeds: $81.1 million (Up by 14%)
    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 -$17.2 million trade deficit for 2016 down -99.2% from -$2.1 billion deficit during 2009.

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. Machinery including computers: -US$497.8 million (Up by 142.7% since 2009)
  2. Vehicles : -$396.2 million (Up by 124%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: -$326.2 million (Down by -57%)
  4. Knit or crochet fabric: -$274 million (Up by 31,540%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$237.5 million (Up by 111.4%)
  6. Cotton: -$126.8 million (Up by 7,942%)
  7. Cereals: -$119.9 million (Up by 8.6%)
  8. Pharmaceuticals: -$119.4 million (Down by -59.1%)
  9. Paper, paper items: -$118.7 million (Up by 26%)
  10. Iron, steel: -$115.5 million (Up by 41.1%)

Nicaragua has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category.


Nicaraguan Export Companies

Not one Nicaraguan corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000 for 2016.

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.

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 May 5, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on May 5, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on May 5, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 5, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Nicaragua. Accessed on May 5, 2017

Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 5, 2017