An independent British Overseas Territory located in the western Caribbean Sea, the Cayman Islands shipped an estimated US$1.04 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 153.5% gain since 2014 and a 3.9% upturn from 2017 to 2018.
Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, the Cayman Islands’ exported goods plus services represent 62.1% of total economic output or Gross Domestic Product for the Cayman Islands. 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.
The latest data shows that 98.5% of products exported from the Cayman Islands were bought by importers in: the Netherlands (45.6% of the global total), Cyprus (34.7%), Malta (9.9%), United States (3.2%), Greece (1.2%), Brazil (1.1%), Italy (1.1%), Nigeria (0.8%), France (0.6%) and Canada (0.5%).
From a continental perspective, 93.4% of Cayman Islands’ exports by value were delivered to European countries while 3.7% were sold to North American importers. Cayman Islands shipped another 1.2% worth of goods to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Smaller percentages went to Africa (0.8%), Asian (0.6%) then Oceania (0.3%) mostly New Zealand and Australia.
Given Cayman Islands’ population of 59,613 people, its total $1.04 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $17,500 for every resident in the independent territory.
The unemployment rate in Cayman Islands was forecast to be 5.3% at July 2019, according to Trading Economics.
Cayman Islands’ Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Caymanian global shipments during 2018, at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Cayman Islands.
- Ships, boats: US$955.5 million (91.8% of total exports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $12.5 million (1.2%)
- Lead: $10.7 million (1%)
- Machinery including computers: $10.7 million (1%)
- Cereals: $7.9 million (0.8%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $6.8 million (0.7%)
- Woodpulp: $2.4 million (0.2%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $1.6 million (0.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.4 million (0.1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: $1.3 million (0.1%)
By value, Cayman Islands’ top 10 exports accounted for 97.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Woodpulp was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 26,844% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was lead which was up by 440.9% year over year.
Cayman Islands’ shipments of aircraft and spacecraft posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 29.6%.
The leading decliner among the top 10 Cayman Islands’ export categories was gems and precious metals thanks to a -95% drop weighed down by plummeting international sales of gold.
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, yachts and similar vessels represent Cayman Islands’ most valuable exported product comprising 91.8% of the country’s total. In second place was lead (1%) trailed by phone system devices including smartphones (0.9%), wheat: (0.8%), aircraft (0.6%), then computers including optical readers (0.5%).
Two product categories earned surpluses for the Cayman Islands in 2018, namely wheat with US$5.8 million in positive net exports and Cayman Islands’ exported nickel at $11,000 worth of black ink.
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.
In turn, these cashflows indicate Cayman Islands’ competitive advantages for these product categories.
Overall Cayman Islands racked up an estimated -$3.9 billion product trade deficit for 2018, up 18.9% from -$3.3 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Cayman Islands that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Cayman Islands’ goods trail Caymanian importer spending on foreign products.
- Ships, boats: -US$2.5 billion (Up by 25.9% since 2017)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$172.4 million (Down by -29%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$136.9 million (Up by 3735.7%)
- Woodpulp: -$115.4 million (Down by -11.3%)
- Machinery including computers: -$71.5 million (Up by 26.3%)
- Paper, paper items: -$63.4 million (Down by -45.3%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$58.9 million (Up by 209.9%)
- Vehicles: -$56.5 million (Up by 4.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$48.6 million (Up by 44%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$33.4 million (Up by 5.2%)
Cayman Islands has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the highly capital-intensive ships and boats category.
Caymanian Export Companies
One Caymanian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000, specifically pharmaceuticals supplier Herbalife Ltd.
Wikipedia also lists exports-related companies from the Cayman Islands. Selected examples are shown below:
- Fabrinet (telecommunications equipment)
- O2Micro International Limited (semiconductors)
- Ocean Rig (oil, gas)
- Theravance Biopharma, Inc (pharmaceuticals)
Cayman Islands’ capital city is George Town.
See also Mexico’s Top 10 Exports and Top Mexican Trade Balances
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Cayman Islands. Accessed on September 11, 2018
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 11, 2018
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 5, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 5, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 11, 2018
NASDAQ, Companies in Cayman Islands. Accessed on July 5, 2019
The World Factbook, Central America and Caribbean: Cayman Islands. Accessed on September 11, 2018
Wikipedia, Cayman Islands. Accessed on September 11, 2018