Panama’s Top 10 Exports

Panama flag courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Panama flag (Wikimedia Commons)

A Central American country stretching from Costa Rica to the west across to its southeastern border with South America’s Colombia, the Republic of Panama shipped US$4.4 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016.

That dollar amount represents a -73.6% decline since 2012 when Panamanian exports equal to $16.8 billion. Year over year, Panamanian exports dropped in value by -63.2%.

Panama’s top 10 exports accounted for almost three-quarters (73.7%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Panama’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $93 billion in 2016 (on a purchasing power parity basis). Therefore, exported products represent an estimated 4.8% of total Panamanian economic output.

From a continental perspective, an estimated 70.9% of Panamanian exports by value were delivered to Latin American countries (excluding Mexico) while 23.1% were sold to North American importers. Panama shipped another 2.9% worth of goods to Europe and 1.9% to Asia.

Given Panama’s population of 3.8 million people, its total $4.4 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $1,200 for every resident in that country.

Panama’s unemployment rate was projected to be 5.3% as of October 2017.

Panama’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Panamanian global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Panama. From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, cruise or cargo ships and ferry-boats represent Panama’s number one exported product followed by refined petroleum oils then therapeutic or prophylactic drugs and medicines.

  1. Ships, boats: US$992.9 million (22.4% of total exports)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: $802.6 million (18.1%)
  3. Pharmaceuticals: $408.2 million (9.2%)
  4. Fish: $222 million (5%)
  5. Fruits, nuts: $215.9 million (4.9%)
  6. Electrical machinery, equipment: $176.1 million (4%)
  7. Machinery including computers: $152.1 million (3.4%)
  8. Gems, precious metals: $116.6 million (2.63%)
  9. Rubber, rubber articles: $113.4 million (2.56%)
  10. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $68.7 million (1.6%)

Ships and boats represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 62,424% over the 5-year period starting in 2012.

In second place for improving export sales was mineral fuels including oil which appreciated by 38,081% led by processed petroleum.

Fish from Panama posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 112.3%.

The leading decliner among the top 10 Panamanian export categories was unknit and non-crocheted clothing and accessories which depreciated by -95.5% over the 5-year period.


The following types of Panamanian 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. Fish: US$192.9 million (Up by 124.4% since 2012)
  2. Fruits, nuts: $164.6 million (Up by 53.2%)
  3. Coffee, tea, spices: $11.4 million (Up by 63.2%)
  4. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $8 million (Down by -52.1%)
  5. Collector items, art, antiques: $5.7 million (Down by -297%)
  6. Lead: $3.3 million (Up by 41.1%)
  7. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $247,000 (Down by -97.4%)
  8. Nickel: $141,000 (Down by -114.7%)

Panama has highly positive net exports in the international trade of fish. In turn, these cashflows indicate Panama’s strong competitive advantages under the fish product category.


Overall, Panama incurred a -$29.8 billion product trade deficit during 2016.

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

  1. Ships, boats: -US$6.4 billion (Up by 12,418% since 2012)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: -$5.2 billion (Up by 84.1%)
  3. Machinery including computers: -$1.9 billion (Up by 44.3%)
  4. Organic chemicals: -$1.9 billion (Down by -3,659%)
  5. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.4 billion (Up by 54.1%)
  6. Vehicles : -$1.3 billion (Up by 14.7%)
  7. Pharmaceuticals: -$730.3 million (Down by -1,132%)
  8. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$576.8 million (Up by 944.8%)
  9. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$536.2 million (Up by 108.2%)
  10. Footwear: -$474.2 million (Up by 398.8%)

Panama has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the ships and boats category.


Panamanian Export Companies

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

Wikipedia identifies some international trade-related entities conducting business in Panama. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Bering Motors (automobiles)
  • DHL Aero Expreso (cargo airliner)

A considerable number of Panamanian exporters list their products on the global sales portal The following are selected examples; each firm’s principal products are shown within parentheses.

  1. CIBO SA (sugar)
  2. Gainway Metal Recycling Corp (scrap metal)
  3. Grupo Prado E Hijos (cargo ships)
  4. Interbahn Global Ltd (teak logs)
  5. Kwinana Tech International (computers, accessories)
  6. Live Well Pharmaceuticals (drugs, medicines)
  7. PILSA (rum)
  8. Salva-Mar SA (fresh fish)

Panama’s capital is Panama City.

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

See also Costa Rica’s Top 10 Exports, Guatemala’s Top Trading Partners and Honduras Top 10 Imports

Research Sources:
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on October 21, 2017

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on October 21, 2017

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on October 21, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on October 21, 2017

The World Factbook, Central America and Caribbean: Panama. Accessed on October 21, 2017

Wikimedia Commons, Flag of Panama. Accessed on October 21, 2017

Wikipedia, Panama. Accessed on October 21, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Panama. Accessed on October 21, 2017

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Panama City, Panama. Accessed on October 21, 2017