Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Colombian peso depreciated by -21% against the US dollar since 2016 and declined by -12.6% from 2019 to 2020. Colombia’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 72.6% of products exported from Colombia were bought by importers in: the United States (30.4% of the global total), China (8.6%), Panama (4.9%), Ecuador (4.7%), Brazil (4.1%), Mexico (3.7%), Italy (3.1%), Turkey (2.9%), Peru (2.8%), India (2.6%), Chile (2.5%) and the Netherlands (2.3%).
From a continental perspective, 35.5% of Colombia’s exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 26.2% were sold to importers in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Colombia shipped another 20.8% worth of goods to Asia. Smaller percentages went to Europe (13.9%), Africa (0.6%) then Oceania led by Australia (0.5%).
Given Colombia’s population of 50.9 million people, its total $31 billion in 2020 exports translates to about $600 for every resident in the South American sovereign state.
Colombia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Colombian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Colombia.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$12.9 billion (41.6% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $3 billion (9.6%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $2.5 billion (8.2%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $1.4 billion (4.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.3 billion (4.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.3 billion (4.1%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $598.8 million (1.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $512 million (1.6%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $506.2 million (1.6%)
- Iron, steel: $478 million (1.5%)
Colombia’s top 10 exports accounted for almost four-fifths (79.2%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 52.7% from 2019 to 2020 and propelled by higher international revenues from exported gold. In second place for improving export sales were animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes via a 14.1% gain. Colombia’s shipments of fruits and nuts posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 10.9%.
The leading decliner among Colombia’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -40.3% drop year over year.
At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Colombia’s most valuable exported goods are crude oil (22.9% of its global total), coal plus solid fuels made from coal (11.4%), gold (9.3%), coffee (8.1%), refined petroleum oils (5%), fresh or dried flowers (4.5%), bananas including plantains (3.2%), coke and semi-coke (2%), iron ferroalloys (1.4%) and palm oil (1.3%).
The following types of Colombian 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$10.7 billion (Down by -38.1% since 2019)
- Gems, precious metals: $2.9 billion (Up by 55.7%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $2.4 billion (Up by 5.6%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $1.4 billion (Down by -4.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.1 billion (Up by 12.9%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $330.2 million (Up by 4.3%)
- Live animals: $131.4 million (Up by 208.5%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $70.3 million (Up by 133.5%)
- Cocoa: $50.5 million (Up by 11.9%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $42.3 million (Reversing a -$69.7 million deficit)
Colombia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of mineral fuels-related exports particularly crude oil and coal. In turn, these cashflows indicate Colombia’s strong competitive advantages under the oil product category.
Overall Colombia incurred a -$12.4 billion trade deficit during 2020, up 14% from the -$10.9 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Colombia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Colombia’s goods trail Colombian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: US-$4.8 billion (Down by -9.8% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$4.5 billion (Down by -10.9%)
- Vehicles: -$3.1 billion (Down by -22.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$2.1 billion (Down by -2.4%)
- Cereals: -$2 billion (Up by 9.5%)
- Organic chemicals: -$1.8 billion (Down by -6.5%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$1.4 billion (Down by -0.1%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$893 million (Up by 11.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$755.9 million (Down by -9.3%)
- Iron, steel: -$694 million (Down by -26.7%)
Colombia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery particularly computers.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Colombia’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market, but also represent key opportunities for Colombia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Colombian Export Companies
Six Colombian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Colombian companies that Forbes included.
- Ecopetrol (fuel, petrochemicals)
- Grupo Argos (construction materials)
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Colombia. Selected examples are shown below.
- Alpina Productos Alimenticios (dairy products)
- Auteco (vehicles)
- Manuelita (sugar, fruits, vegetables)
- Organizacion Corona (ceramics)
- Ospina Coffee Company (coffee)
In macroeconomic terms, Colombia’s total exported goods represent 4.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($719 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 4.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 5.2% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Colombia’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Colombia’s average unemployment rate was 17.3% at January 2021, up from 12.2% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Colombia’s capital city is Bogotá.
See also Colombia’s Top Trading Partners, Colombia’s Top 10 Imports and Top South American Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, Trade CentreCountry Profiles. Accessed on March 14, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 14, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 14, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 14, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 14, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 14, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 14, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Colombia. Accessed on March 14, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 14, 2021