That dollar amount reflects a 34.6% acceleration since 2017 and a 57.2% uptick from 2020 to 2021.
At the detailed 4-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Bolivia’s most valuable exported products are gold, petroleum gases, zinc ores and concentrates, precious metal ores and concentrates, soya bean oil-cake residues, soya bean oil, unwrought tin, jewelry, lead ores and concentrates, then Brazil nuts and coconuts. Combined, those products accounted for 85.5% of overall Bolivian exports in 2021.
Such a high percentage indicates that Bolivia offers a relatively concentrated portfolio of exported goods.
Given Bolivia’s population of 11.8 million people, its total $11.03 billion worth of 2021 exports translates to roughly $950 for each resident in the South American country. That per-capita dollar amount represents an increase from the average $600 one year earlier in 2020.
Bolivia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Bolivian global shipments during 2021 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.
- Gems, precious metals: US$2.9 billion (26.2% of total exports)
- Ores, slag, ash: $2.6 billion (23.3%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $2.3 billion (21.2%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $734.6 million (6.7%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $689.2 million (6.2%)
- Tin: $507.4 million (4.6%)
- Fruits, nuts: $196.4 million (1.8%)
- Oil seeds: $160.3 million (1.5%)
- Meat: $95.2 million (0.9%)
- Wood: $85.7 million (0.8%)
Bolivia’s top 10 export groupings accounted for 93.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Tin was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 189.6% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes via a 106.6% expansion.
Bolivia’s shipments of gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 95.1%, propelled largely by higher revenues for Bolivian exports of gold.
The most modest gainer among Bolivia’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a 15.5% year-over-year uptick.
Drilling down to the more granular 4-digit HTS codes, Bolivia’s most valuable export products are gold (22.9% of total) trailed by petroleum gases (20.9%), zinc ores and concentrates (12.5%), precious metal ores and concentrates (7.9%), soya-bean oil cake plus other solid residues (6.4%), soya-bean oil (5.2%), unprocessed tin (4.6%), jewelry (1.9%), lead ores and concentrates (1.8%), then Brazil nuts and to a lesser extent coconuts (1.4%).
Products Generating Trade Surpluses for Bolivia
Bolivia incurred an overall $1.5 billion trade surplus in 2021, reversing a -$64.8 million trade deficit one year earlier.
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.
- Gems, precious metals: US$2.9 billion (Up by 95.3% since 2020)
- Ores, slag, ash: $2.6 billion (Up by 73.7%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $679.5 million (Up by 46.7%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $669.2 million (Up by 114.2%)
- Tin: $507.2 million (Up by 189.8%)
- Fruits, nuts: $172.7 million (Up by 24%)
- Oil seeds: $131.3 million (Up by 89.3%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $112.3 million (Down by -89.9%)
- Meat: $91.1 million (Up by 49.4%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $70.7 million (Up by 47.3%)
Bolivia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of gold and to a smaller degree jewellery. In turn, these cashflows indicate Bolivia’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals category.
Products Causing Trade Deficits for Bolivia
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$960.9 million (Up by 27.4% since 2020)
- Vehicles: -$894.5 million (Up by 34%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$566.1 million (Up by 7.5%)
- Iron, steel: -$540.8 million (Up by 71.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$523.2 million (Up by 35.8%)
- Other chemical goods: -$358 million (Up by 19.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$254.5 million (Up by 7.4%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$233.8 million (Up by 13.3%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: -$177.1 million (Up by 36%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: -$167.5 million (Up by 19.7%)
Bolivia has highly negative net exports and therefore competitive disadvantages for computers and other types of machinery ranging from 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)
Where Bolivia’s Top Trading Partners Are Located
The latest available country-specific data from shows that 83.3% of products exported from Bolivia were bought by importers in: India (16.6% of the global total), Brazil (13%), Argentina (9.5%), Japan (8.3%), Colombia (6.4%), mainland China (6%), Peru (5.8%), United States of America (4.9%), South Korea (3.9%), United Arab Emirates (3.6%), Netherlands (2.6%) and Ecuador (also 2.6%).
From a continental perspective, 40.5% of Bolivia’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 40.1% were sold to importers in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Bolivia shipped another 10.3% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North America (7.4%), Oceania led by Australia (1.7%) and Africa (0.12%).
Bolivia has two capital cities. La Paz is the de facto working capital, while Sucre is constitutionally the legal capital city.
In macroeconomic terms, Bolivia’s total exported goods represent 10.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($105 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 10.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 7.4% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing 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 7.8% for 2021, down from 8.3% according to the International Monetary Fund.
See also Brazil’s Top 10 Imports, Bolivia’s Top Trade Partners, Brazil’s Top Trade Partners and Bolivia’s Top 10 Imports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Field Listing: Imports – Commodities. Accessed on April 4, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 4, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity)
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 4, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 4, 2022
Wikipedia, Bolivia. Accessed on April 4, 2022
Wikipedia, Airlines of Bolivia. Accessed on April 4, 2022
Wikipedia, Category: Banks of Bolivia. Accessed on April 4, 2022
Wikipedia, Oil and Gas Companies of Bolivia. Accessed on April 4, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on April 4, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on April 4, 2022