Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Jamaican dollar has depreciated by -13.8% against the US dollar since 2016 and fell by -6.8% from 2019 to 2020. Jamaica’s weaker local currency made Jamaican exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The biggest 3 exported goods from Jamaica by value are aluminum oxide or hydroxide, aluminum ores and concentrates, and alcoholic beverages including spirits and liqueurs. Combined, Jamaica’s trio of most valuable exports accounted for 59.9% of the Caribbean island’s overall export tally.
The latest available country-specific data from 2019 shows that 89.7% of products exported from Jamaica were bought by importers in: United States (38.8% of the global total), Netherlands (13.8%), Canada (8.8%), Iceland (7.4%), Russia (4.4%), Norway (4.1%), United Kingdom (3.2%), China (2.3%), Georgia (2.1%), Trinidad/Tobago (1.9%), Ghana (1.8%) and France (1.2%).
From a continental perspective, 48% of Jamaica’s exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 35.4% were sold to importers in Europe. Jamaica shipped another 8.9% worth of goods to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Smaller percentages went to Asia (5.5%), Africa (1.8%), and Oceania led by New Zealand (0.3%).
Given Jamaica’s population of 2.7 million people, its total $947.3 million in 2020 exports translates to roughly $350 for every resident in the West Indian Island.
Jamaica’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level represent the highest dollar value in Jamaican global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Jamaica.
- Inorganic chemicals: US$383.4 million (40.5% of total exports)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $146 million (15.4%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $99.1 million (10.5%)
- Vegetables: $48 million (5.1%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $42.8 million (4.5%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $32.3 million (3.4%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $32.2 million (3.4%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $25.4 million (2.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $16.2 million (1.7%)
- Fish: $10.7 million (1.1%)
By value, Jamaica’s top 10 exports accounted for 88.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Coffee, tea and spices is the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 30% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales were miscellaneous food preparations via a 29.7% gain.
Jamaica’s shipments of vegetables posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 25.2%.
The leading decliner among Jamaica’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil, thanks to a -94.6% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Jamaica’s most valuable exported products were aluminum oxide or hydroxide (40.4% of the global total), aluminum ores or concentrates (10.5%), alcoholic beverages including spirits and liqueurs (9%), manioc, artichokes and sweet potatoes (4.8%), sauce and preparations (3%), malt beer (2.7%), bread, biscuits, cakes and pastries (2.5%), coffee (2.3%) and non-alcoholic drinks (1.5%) and processed petroleum oils (1.4%).
The following types of Jamaican 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.
- Inorganic chemicals: US$334.2 million (Down by -45.6% since 2019)
- Ores, slag, ash: $98.8 million (Up by 9.8%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $88.3 million (Up by 298.2%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $27.5 million (Up by 65.3%)
- Vegetables: $25.7 million (Up by 50.5%)
- Copper: $1.3 million (Reversing a -$6.5 million deficit)
- Woodpulp: $772,000 (Up by 84.2%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $595,000 (Reversing a -$16.4 million deficit)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $430,000 (Reversing a -$256,000 deficit)
Jamaica generated highly positive net exports in the international trade of inorganic chemicals. In turn, these cashflows indicate Jamaica’s strong competitive advantages under the inorganic chemicals category.
Overall Jamaica incurred a -$3.1 billion trade deficit for 2020, down by -34.9% from -$4.8 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Jamaica that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Jamaica’s goods trail Jamaican importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$655.4 million (Down by -52.1% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$358 million (Down by -32.9%)
- Vehicles: -$353.4 million (Down by -34.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$215.4 million (Down by -35%)
- Railways, streetcars: -$174.6 million (Up by 3437.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$169.3 million (Down by -20.9%)
- Cereals: -$120.7 million (Down by -24.5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$87.6 million (Down by -36.6%)
- Paper, paper items: -$77.6 million (Down by -35.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$74.6 million (Down by -53.8%)
Jamaica incurred highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category, particularly for both refined and crude petroleum oils and, to a lesser extent, petroleum gases and coal.
Jamaican Export Companies
No Jamaican-based corporation ranks among the Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list exports-related companies from Jamaica. Selected examples are shown below.
- Alpart (aluminum)
- Desnoes & Geddes (brewery)
- J. Wray and Nephew Ltd (alcoholic beverages)
- Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (oil, gas)
- Port Authority of Jamaica (ports/shipping)
In macroeconomic terms, Jamaica’s total exported goods represent 3.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($27.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 5.4% for 2019. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Jamaica’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Jamaica’s unemployment rate was 8.9% at January 2021, up from 7.3% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Jamaica’s capital city is Kingston.
See also Bermuda’s Top 10 Exports, Cuba’s Top 10 Exports and Sugar Exports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on June 24, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 24, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 24, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 24, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 24, 2021
The World Bank, Official Exchange Rate (LCU per US$, period average) – Jamaica. Accessed on June 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Jamaica. Accessed on June 24, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Jamaica. Accessed on June 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 24, 2021
July 11, 2020
WorldOMeter, Jamaica Population. Accessed on June 24, 2021