That dollar amount reflects a -26.7% decline since 2017 and a -3.1% decline from 2020 to 2021.
Cuba’s 5 most valuable exports are tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars and cigarellos, nickel, sugar, alcoholic beverages, then zinc ores and concentrates. That leading quintet represents 41.8% of the total value for Cuban exports during 2021.
The latest available country-specific estimates for 2018 shows that 87% of products exported from Cuba were bought by importers in: Canada (23.8% of its global total), mainland China (18.5%), Venezuela (17.6%), Spain (7.8%), Netherlands (5.2%), Singapore (3.3%), Belgium (2.2%), Hong Kong (2.1%), Germany (2%), Portugal (1.8%), France (1.6%) and Cyprus (1.1%).
Given Cuba’s population of 11.3 million people, its total $1.72 billion worth of exported products in 2020 translates to roughly $150 for every resident in the Caribbean island country. That dollar metric exceeds the average $145 per capita one year earlier during 2020.
Cuba’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Cuban 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 Cuba.
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: US$333.3 million (19.4% of total exports)
- Nickel: $227.5 million (13.2%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $173.1 million (10.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $146.7 million (8.5%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $119 million (6.9%)
- Fish: $103.3 million (6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $100.9 million (5.9%)
- Wood: $47.2 million (2.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $28.9 million (1.7%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $25.1 million (1.5%)
Cuba’s top 10 exported product categories account for about three-quarters (75.9%) of the value for the Caribbean country’s overall shipments.
Fish was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 67.5% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was dairy, eggs and honey via a 57.2% gain.
Cuba’s shipments of nickel posted the third-fastest appreciation up by 36.5%.
Year over year, the leading decliner among Cuba’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to its -52.3% drop. That energy product category was weighed down by lower revenues for Cuban exports of crude oil and refined petroleum oils.
Drilling down to the more detailed 4-digit HTS codes, Cuba’s most valuable exported goods are cigars, cigarillos and cigarettes (19.7% of its global total).
In second place was nickel matte and oxide sinters (10.7%) trailed by sugar (10.5%), alcoholic beverages (7.1%), zinc ores and concentrates (5.7%), lobsters and other crustaceans (5.5%), crude petroleum oil (3.3%), precious metal ores and concentrates (3.1%), wood charcoal (2.9%) then processed petroleum oils (2.8%).
Products Generating Cuba’s Greatest Trade Surpluses
Based on 2020 data, the following types of Cuban 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.
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: US$260.6 million (Down by -0.8% since 2020)
- Nickel: $174.8 million (Up by 15.5%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $133.9 million (Down by -40.2%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $114.4 million (Down by -9.5%)
- Fish: $78.9 million (Up by 39.3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $38.5 million (Down by -17.3%)
- Wood: $18.7 million (Up by 46.8%)
- Copper: $7.4 million (Up by 58.4%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $5.6 million (Down by -12.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: $5.5 million (Reversing a -$4.2 million deficit)
Cuba has highly positive net exports in the international trade of tobacco, as well as cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose in solid form. In turn, these cashflows indicate Cuba’s strong competitive advantages under the tobacco and sugar categories above.
Products Causing Cuba’s Worst Trade Deficits
Overall, Cuba incurred an estimated -$2.21 billion trade deficit for 2021. That negative balance represents a -0.5% decrease from -$2.22 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Cuba that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Cuba’s goods trail Cuban importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$447 million (Down by -22.4% since 2020)
- Meat: -$354.7 million (Up by 26.8%)
- Cereals: -$354.3 million (Up by 4.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$300 million (Down by -9.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$173.2 million (Up by 1.6%)
- Vehicles: -$129.6 million (Down by -13.6%)
- Other chemical goods: -$95.5 million (Down by -1.5%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$90.9 million (Down by -37.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$87.3 million (Down by -20%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$87.1 million (Up by 48.6%)
Cuba has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category notably machinery parts, refrigerators and freezers, and centrifuges.
Cuban Export Companies
No Cuban corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Cuba. Selected examples are shown below.
- Cubana de Aviación (airline)
- Cubatabaco (tobacco)
- Cuba Petróleo Unión (oil, gas)
- Havana Club (rum)
- Modelo Brewery (beer)
One key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Cuba’s unemployment rate was forecast was 3.5% at the end of 2021, down from an average 3.87% for 2020, according to Trading Economics.
Cuba’s capital city is Havana.
See also Russia’s Top 10 Imports, Russia’s Top Trading Partners, Sugar Exports by Country and Beer Imports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on June 4, 2022
Forbes, Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 4, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 4, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 4, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 4, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Cuba. Accessed on June 4, 2022
Wikipedia, Cuba. Accessed on June 4, 2022
WorldOMeter, Cuba Population. Accessed on June 4, 2022