That dollar amount reflects an 11.4% increase since 2016 and a 4.3% uptick from 2019 to 2020.
Guatemala’s 5 most valuable export products are: spices including nutmeg and cardamons; bananas including plantains; coffee; sugar; and palm oil. Collectively, those major product groups account for almost a third (32.5%) of total Guatemalan exported goods by value.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 79.1% of products exported from Guatemala were bought by importers in: United States (32.3% of the global total), El Salvador (11.3%), Honduras (8.7%), Nicaragua (5.7%), Mexico (4%), Costa Rica (3.8%), Netherlands (3%), Saudi Arabia (2.7%), United Arab Emirates (2%), China (also 2%), Panama (1.8%) and Canada (1.7%).
From a continental perspective, 38% of Guatemala’s exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 37.1% were sold to importers in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Guatemala shipped another 12.9% worth of goods to Asia, with another 9.7% going to Europe.
Tinier percentages arrived in Africa (2%) and Oceania (0.3%) led by New Zealand and Australia.
A population of 18 million people in 2020 makes Guatemala the most highly populated country in Central America, Guatemala’s $11.7 billion in exported goods translates to roughly $650 worth per resident.
Guatemala’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Guatemalan global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Guatemala.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$1.8 billion (15.4% of total exports)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.3 billion (11.2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $1.1 billion (9.1%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $712.6 million (6.1%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $578.6 million (5%)
- Iron, steel: $457.7 million (3.9%)
- Vegetables: $372.2 million (3.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $367.2 million (3.1%)
- Paper, paper items: $335.2 million (2.9%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $286.5 million (2.5%)
Guatemala’s top 10 exports accounted for 62.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Coffee, tea and spices was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 36.3% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales were animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes via a 17.8% gain.
Up by 16.7%, Guatemala’s shipments of iron or steel posted the third-fastest gain in value.
The leading decliner among Guatemala’s top 10 export categories was beverages, spirits and vinegar thanks to a -13.2% drop year over year. Notable decliners were liquor, malt beer and waters.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, spices like nutmeg and cardamoms represent Guatemala’s most valuable exported product at 9.7% of the country’s total. In second place were bananas and plantains (8.2%), trailed by coffee (5.6%), sugar (5%), palm oil (4%), iron ferroalloys (2.8%), knitted or crocheted men’s shirts (2.4%), knitted or crocheted jerseys and pullovers (2.3%), women’s blouses and shirts (2.2%) then packaged insecticides, fungicides and herbicides (1.8%).
The following types of Guatemalan 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 reflect 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.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$1.8 billion (Up by 37.2% since 2019)
- Fruits, nuts: $1.2 billion (Up by 4.3%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $978.4 million (Down by -5%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $644.8 million (Down by -13%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $381 million (Up by 19.1%)
- Vegetables: $318 million (Up by 4.3%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $84.5 million (Down by -4.9%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $73.5 million (Down by -15.3%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $55.7 million (Up by 146%)
- Soaps, washing preparations, lubricants, waxes: $44.4 million (Up by 69.1%)
Guatemala has notably positive net exports in the international trade of coffee and the spice cardamom. In turn, these cashflows indicate Guatemala’s strong competitive advantages under the coffee, tea and spices product category.
Below are exports from Guatemala that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Guatemala’s goods trail Guatemalan importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.9 billion (Down by -32.2% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.5 billion (Down by -5.7%)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.3 billion (Down by -5.4%)
- Vehicles : -$1.2 billion (Down by -13.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$713.4 million (Down by -3.8%)
- Cereals: -$547.3 million (Up by 11.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$422.5 million (Down by -1.7%)
- Organic chemicals: -$310.9 million (Up by 13%)
- Paper, paper items: -$262.4 million (Down by -34.2%)
- Fertilizers: -$247.3 million (Up by 14.5%)
Guatemala has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for fossil fuels related products particularly refined petroleum oils, coal and petroleum gases.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Guatemala’s competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuels-related market, but also represent key opportunities for Guatemala to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations particularly on alternative energy sources.
Guatemalan Export Companies
Wikipedia lists exporting businesses from Guatemala. Selected examples are shown below.
- Claro Americas (telecommunications)
- Corporación Multi Inversiones (agro-industrial conglomerate)
- Malher (food, beverages)
- Ron Zacapa Centenario (premium rum)
- Trama Textiles (hand-made woven goods)
In macroeconomic terms, Guatemala’s total exported goods represent 7.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($149 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 7.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 7.3% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Guatemala’s total economic performance, albeit based on a relatively short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Guatemala’s forcasted unemployment rate was 5% at July 2021, up from 2% in September 2019 according to Trading Economics.
Guatemala’s capital is Guatemala City.
See also Costa Rica’s Top 10 Exports, El Salvador’s Top 10 Exports and Belize’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on July 10, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 10, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 10, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 10, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 10, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Guatemala. Accessed on July 10, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 10, 2021