That dollar amount results from a 31.9% increase from $4.926 billion in 2017 and a 27.7% year-over-year acceleration from $5.087 billion for 2020.
The top 5 most valuable exports from Nicaragua are gold, knitted or crocheted t-shirts, insulated wire or cable, coffee and frozen beef. Added together, that quintet of major exports represent almost half (47%) of the overall value of all Nicaraguan exported products.
Nicaragua’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 91.7% of products exported from Nicaragua were bought by importers in: United States of America (56.4% of the global total), Mexico (11.8%), El Salvador (5.9%), Honduras (5.2%), Costa Rica (2.9%), Guatemala (2.5%), Taiwan (1.9%), Belgium (1.3%), Germany (1.05%), Panama (1.01%), United Kingdom (0.9%) and Italy (0.8%).
From a continental perspective, more than two-thirds (68.8%) of Nicaragua’s exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 19.6% were sold to importers in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean. Nicaragua shipped 7.3% worth of goods to Europe, with another 3.8% going to Asia.
Tinier percentages went to Oceania (0.203%) led by Australia, and Africa (0.198%).
Given Nicaragua’s population of 6.544 million people, its total $6.495 billion in 2021 exports translates to approximately $1,000 for every resident in the Central American nation. That dollar metric exceeds the average $800 per person one year earlier in 2020.
Nicaragua’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Nicaraguan global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Nicaragua.
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$1.2 billion (18.9% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $949.5 million (14.6%)
- Meat: $762.5 million (11.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $600 million (9.2%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $510.8 million (7.9%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $378.9 million (5.8%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $321.4 million (4.9%)
- Fish: $319.9 million (4.9%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $200.1 million (3.1%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $180.2 million (2.8%)
Nicaragua’s top 10 export categories accounted for 83.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Electrical machinery and equipment was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 51.7% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was knit or crochet clothing and accessories via a 35% advance.
Nicaragua’s shipments of meat posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 35%.
The slowest increase among Nicaragua’s top 10 export categories was sugar including sugar confectionery thanks to a 2.2% year-over-year improvement.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold represents Nicaragua’s most valuable exported product generating 13.4% of the country’s total. In second place were knitted or crocheted t-shirts and vests (11%) trailed by insulated wire or cable (9.1%), coffee (7.8%), frozen beef (5.7%), fresh or chilled beef (5.5%), cigars, cigarillos and cigarettes (also 5.5%), crustaceans including lobsters (3.6%), cheese including curd (2.6%), then knitted or crocheted women’s blouses and shirts excluding t-shirts (also 2.6%).
Products Leading to Nicaragua’s Largest Trade Surpluses
The following types of Nicaraguan 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.
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$720.1 million (Up by 16.3% since 2020)
- Meat: $709.8 million (Up by 33.9%)
- Gems, precious metals: $605 million (Down by -16.4%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $505.3 million (Up by 16%)
- Fish: $315.7 million (Up by 13.1%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $275.2 million (Up by 48.2%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $158.9 million (Up by 4.4%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $151.1 million (Down by -0.7%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $132 million (Down by -27.8%)
- Oil seeds: $111.4 million (Up by 10.4%)
Nicaragua has highly positive net exports in the international trade of apparel and gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Nicaragua’s strong competitive advantages under both the knit or unknit and crochet or non-crochet clothing and accessories categories, as well as the leading gems and precious metals product category.
Products Causing Nicaragua’s Worst Trade Deficits
Nicaragua posted an overall -$3.7 billion trade deficit for 2021, up by 151.6% from the -$1.5 billion in red ink one year earlier during 2020.
Below are exports from Nicaragua that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Nicaragua’s goods trail Nicaraguan importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.7 billion (Up by 179.5% since 2020)
- Machinery including computers: -$513.2 million (Up by 42.6%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: -$506.1 million (Up by 20.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$495.1 million (Up by 32.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$389.6 million (Up by 34.2%)
- Vehicles: -$356.6 million (Up by 65%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$274 million (Up by 66.2%)
- Cereals: -$260.9 million (Up by 49.1%)
- Iron, steel: -$229.9 million (Up by 52.2%)
- Paper, paper items: -$210.1 million (Up by 28.6%)
Nicaragua has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category, notably due to red ink recorded for both crude and refined petroleum oils as well as petroleum gases.
Nicaraguan Export Companies
Not one Nicaraguan corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Nicaragua. Selected examples are shown below.
- Compañía Cervecera de Nicaragua (brewery)
- ECAMI (alternative energy)
- El Castillo del Cacao (chocolate)
- Flor de Caña (rum)
- Gelateria Italiana (ice cream)
- Joya de Nicaragua (cigars)
- Kola Shaler Industrial (soft drinks)
In macroeconomic terms, Nicaragua’s total exported goods represent 15.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($42.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 15.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 14% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Nicaragua’s total economic performance, albeit based on a relatively short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Nicaragua’s unemployment rate averaged 11.1% for 2021, up from an average 7.293% one year earlier for 2020 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Nicaragua’s capital city is Managua, a word that can mean either “adjacent to the water” or “place of the chief”.
See also T-shirt Exports by Country, Sugar Exports by Country, Natural Honey Exports by Country and Top Milk Exporting Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on July 13, 2022
Forbes 2017 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 13, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity)
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 13, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 13, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 13, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Nicaragua. Accessed on July 13, 2022
Wikipedia, Managua. Accessed on July 13, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 13, 2022