The latest available country-specific data from shows that 82.4% of products exported from Bolivia were bought by importers in: Brazil (15.8% of the global total), Argentina (14.7%), India (10.2%), Japan (7.5%), Peru (6.5%), Colombia (5.9%), China (5.1%), United States (4.5%), United Arab Emirates (4%), Netherlands (3%), South Korea (2.8%) and Ecuador (2.3%).
From a continental perspective, 48.2% of Bolivia’s exports by value were delivered to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean while 32.9% were sold to importers in Asia. Bolivia shipped another 10% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North America (6.8%), Oceania led by Australia (1.9%) and Africa (0.06%).
Given Bolivia’s population of 11.7 million people, its total $7 billion worth of 2020 exports translates to roughly $600 for each resident in the South American country.
Bolivia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Bolivian global shipments during 2020 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 Bolivia.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$2 billion (28.9% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.5 billion (21.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $1.5 billion (21.1%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $515.2 million (7.3%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $333.7 million (4.8%)
- Tin: $175.2 million (2.5%)
- Fruits, nuts: $164.6 million (2.3%)
- Cereals: $106 million (1.5%)
- Oil seeds: $91.4 million (1.3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $67.7 million (1%)
Bolivia’s top 10 exports accounted for 91.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Oil seeds represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 40.5% from 2019 to 2020. In second place for improving export sales was animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes via a 16% gain. Bolivia’s shipments of food industry waste and animal fodder posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 10%.
The leading decliner among Bolivia’s top 10 export categories was tin thanks to its -38.6% drop year over year
Drilling down to the more granular 4-digit HTS codes, Bolivia’s most valuable export products are petroleum gases (26.8% of total) trailed by gold (17.5%), zinc ores and concentrates (11.6%), soya-bean oil cake plus other solid residues (7%), precious metal ores and concentrates (6.9%), soya-bean oil (3.7%), unprocessed tin (2.5%), jewelry (1.9%), Brazil nuts (1.8%), silver (1.7%) and lead ores and concentrates (1.6%).
The following types of Bolivian 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.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$1.5 billion (Down by -27.8% since 2019)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.5 billion (Down by -24.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $1.1 billion (Down by -6.7%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $463.2 million (Up by 9.1%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $312.4 million (Up by 15.9%)
- Tin: $175 million (Down by -38.6%)
- Fruits, nuts: $139.2 million (Down by -16.2%)
- Oil seeds: $69.4 million (Up by 59.9%)
- Meat: $61 million (Up by 341.4%)
- Cereals: $49.8 million (Down by -20.7%)
Bolivia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of zinc, precious metal and lead ores and concentrates. In turn, these cashflows indicate Bolivia’s strong competitive advantages under the ores, slag and ash category.
Overall, Bolivia incurred a -$64.8 million deficit in 2020, down -92.5% from the -$860.2 million deficit one year earlier.
Below are exports from Bolivia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Bolivia’s goods trail Bolivian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: US-$754.5 million (Down by -34.5% since 2019)
- Vehicles: -$667.5 million (Down by -37%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$526.7 million (Down by -42.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$385.4 million (Down by -21.5%)
- Iron, steel: -$315.6 million (Down by -32.5%)
- Other chemical goods: -$299.2 million (Down by -10%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$237 million (Up by 6.4%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$206.4 million (Down by -31%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$190.5 million (Up by 5.1%)
- Milling products, malt, starches: -$151.4 million (Up by 10.9%)
Bolivia has highly negative net exports and therefore competitive disadvantages for computers and other types of machinery including steam turbines and turbo-jets.
Bolivian Export Companies
Not one Bolivian corporation ranks among companies listed by Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists some exports-related companies from Bolivia. Selected examples are shown below.
- Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz (financial services)
- Banco Nacional de Bolivia (financial services)
- Boliviana de Aviación (airlines)
- Línea Aérea Amaszonas (airlines)
- Transportes Aéreos Bolivianos (air cargo)
- YPFB (oil, gas)
In macroeconomic terms, Bolivia’s total exported goods represent 7.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($94.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 7.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 7.8% for 2019. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Bolivia’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Bolivia’s average unemployment rate was 3.75% for 2020, up from 3.493% according to the International Monetary Fund.
Bolivia has two capital cities. La Paz is the de facto working capital, while Sucre is constitutionally the legal capital city.
See also Brazil’s Top Trade Partners, Brazil’s Top 10 Imports and Bolivia’s Top 10 Imports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Field Listing: Imports – Commodities. Accessed on March 5, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 5, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 5, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 5, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 5, 2021
Wikipedia, Bolivia. Accessed on March 5, 2021
Wikipedia, Airlines of Bolivia. Accessed on March 5, 2021
Wikipedia, Category: Banks of Bolivia. Accessed on March 5, 2021
Wikipedia, Oil and Gas Companies of Bolivia. Accessed on March 5, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 5, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 5, 2021