The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shipped an estimated US$33 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018, down by -53.2% since 2014 but with a 3.1% upturn from 2017 to 2018.
A federal republic on South America’s northern coast, Venezuela is bordered by Guyana to its east, Brazil to its south and Colombia to its west.
Economically, Venezuela is highly dependent on its petroleum oil exports which reached almost 90% of the country’s total product shipments, bearing witness to Venezuela’s vulnerability to the global downswing in oil prices. Venezuela’s oil exports break down to 79.9% crude oil compared to 9.8% for refined petroleum oils.
Given Venezuela’s population of 31.7 million people, the estimated $33 billion in 2018 Venezuelan exports represents roughly $1,100 for every person in the South American country.
In macroeconomic terms, Venezuela’s total exported goods represent 7.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($465.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 7.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 6.1% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Venezuela’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Venezuela also provided $1.7 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 0.4% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Venezuela’s unemployment rate was an estimated 37% at April 2019, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Venezuela’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Venezuelan global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Venezuela.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$29.9 billion (90.6% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $920.9 million (2.8%)
- Organic chemicals: $554.9 million (1.7%)
- Iron, steel: $259.9 million (0.8%)
- Aluminum: $229.7 million (0.7%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $219 million (0.7%)
- Fish: $163.5 million (0.5%)
- Fertilizers: $82.3 million (0.2%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $80.7 million (0.2%)
- Copper: $73.9 million (0.2%)
Venezuela’s top 10 exports accounted for 98.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Copper was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 21.1% year over year since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was fish which appreciated 6.1%.
Venezuela’s shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 5.8%.
The leading decliner among the top 10 Venezuela export categories was fertilizers which dropped -55.9% year over year.
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Venezuela’s most valuable exported product at 79.9% of the country’s total. In second place was processed petroleum oils (9.8%) trailed by gold (2.8%), acyclic alcohols (1.7%), iron ores and concentrates (0.7%), iron ore reduced products (0.6%), aluminum (0.6%), petroleum oil residues (0.5%), crustaceans including lobsters (0.3%) then nitrogenous fertilizers: (0.2%).
Overall Venezuela posted a $22.4 billion trade surplus during 2018, up by 4.5% from $21.5 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Venezuelan 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$25.6 billion (Down by -2.4% since 2017)
- Gems, precious metals: $917.3 million (Down by -12.5%)
- Organic chemicals: $305.1 million (Up by 45.5%)
- Iron, steel: $237.9 million (Reversing a -$372.7 million deficit)
- Ores, slag, ash: $218.6 million (Reversing a -$121.5 million deficit)
- Aluminum: $210.5 million (Down by -30.2%)
- Fish: $162 million (Up by 7.5%)
- Copper: $63.5 million (Reversing a -$113.2 million deficit)
- Wood: $62.3 million (Down by -4,623%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $48.4 million (Reversing a -$122.7 million deficit)
Venezuela has highly positive net exports particularly in the international trade of crude oil and, to a lesser extent, petroleum coke. In turn, these cashflows indicate Venezuela’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Below are exports from Venezuela that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Venezuela’s goods trail Venezuelan importer spending on foreign products.
- Cereals: -US$897 million (Up by 12.8% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: -$850.8 million (Down by -41.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$390.1 million (Down by -30.7%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$270.8 million (Up by 22.2%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$201.8 million (Up by 138.1%)
- Vehicles: -$175.4 million (Down by -51.6%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$170.3 million (Down by -5.1%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$166.6 million (Up by 21.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$157.5 million (Up by 27.5%)
- Vegetables: -$154.6 million (Up by 66.9%)
Venezuela has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for cereals, mostly corn followed by rice then wheat.
Venezuelan Export Companies
Only two Venezuelan corporations ranked among Forbes Global 2000, namely:
- Mercantil Servicios
- Banco Occidental
Both corporations are regional banks.
Wikipedia lists exporters from Venezuela. Selected examples are shown below:
Citgo Petroleum Corporation and Petróleos de Venezuela are two of Venezuela’s largest oil and gas companies.
CVG Alcasa is a leading aluminum producer. Siderúrgica del Orinoco and Siderúrgica del Turbio, S.A. are examples of Venezuelan steel manufacturers.
Venezuela’s capital is Caracas, a city nicknamed The Avila’s Sultana.
The national currency, the Venezuelan bolivar, holds the dubious distinction of leading the world in devaluation since 2016. A weaker bolivar means that Venezuelan exporters have to sell more products to bring in the same revenues priced in costlier U.S. dollars or else face further dramatic declines in the overall value of their global shipments.
See also Venezuela’s Top 10 Imports, Top South American Export Countries and Capital Facts for Caracas, Venezuela
Forbes 2018 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 24, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 29, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 24, 2019
The World Factbook, South America: Venezuela. Accessed on April 24, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Venezuela. Accessed on April 24, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Wikipedia, Venezuela. Accessed on April 24, 2019