The 5 biggest exports from Uruguay by value are frozen beef, rough wood, soya beans, concentrated or sweetened milk and cream, and rice. Collectively, that quintet of leading exports represents over half (53.6%) of overall Uruguayan shipments.
From a continental perspective, 51.4% of Uruguay exports by value were delivered to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean countries while 23.6% were sold to importers in Asia. Uruguay shipped another 9.9% worth of goods with 9.5% going to North America.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (5.4%) and Oceania (0.2%) led by French Polynesia, New Zealand and Australia.
Given Uruguay’s population of 3.53 million people, its total $7.01 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $2,000 for every resident in the South American country.
Uruguay’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Uruguayan global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Uruguay.
- Meat: US$1.8 billion (25.7% of total exports)
- Wood: $975.1 million (13.9%)
- Oil seeds: $804.1 million (11.5%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $676.9 million (9.7%)
- Cereals: $574.5 million (8.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $242.4 million (3.5%)
- Milling products, malt, starches: $204.9 million (2.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $144.2 million (2.1%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $136.6 million (1.9%)
- Live animals: $113.8 million (1.6%)
Uruguay’s top 10 exports accounted for 80.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Cereals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 21.9% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was live animals which appreciated by 10.3%.
Uruguay’s shipments of pharmaceuticals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 6.2% year over year.
The leading decliner among Uruguay’s top 10 export categories was oil seeds which fell -23.1%.
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Uruguay’s most valuable exported products in 2020 were frozen beef (18.4% of Uruguay’s total exports), rough wood (11.1%), soya beans (10.8%), concentrated or sweetened milk and cream (6.7%), rice (also 6.7%), fresh or chilled beef (4.1%), malt (2.8%), plastic packing goods, lids and caps (1.8%), red meat offal (also 1.8%) then cheese including curd (1.5%).
The following types of Uruguayan 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.
- Meat: US$1.5 billion (Down by -17.1% since 2019)
- Wood: $930 million (Up by 2.1%)
- Oil seeds: $780.1 million (Down by -23.6%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $648.2 million (Up by 1.2%)
- Cereals: $516.3 million (Up by 32.2%)
- Milling products, malt, starches: $173.1 million (Down by -17.3%)
- Live animals: $108.9 million (Up by 10.4%)
- Fish: $79.4 million (Down by -7.9%)
- Wool: $65.3 million (Down by -46.9%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $58.7 million (Down by -44.1%)
Uruguay has highly positive net exports in the international trade of meat, and in particular beef. In turn, these cashflows indicate Uruguay’s strong competitive advantages under the meat product category.
Uruguay incurred an overall -$657.7 million trade deficit during 2020, up by 32.2% from the -$497.6 million in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Uruguay that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Uruguay’s goods trail Uruguayan importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US-$824.8 million (Down by -18.1% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$717.8 million (Down by -4.8%)
- Vehicles: -$570 million (Down by -8.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$547.6 million (Down by -9.1%)
- Other chemical goods: -$226 million (Up by 1.7%)
- Fertilizers: -$224.9 million (Up by 0.6%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$168.7 million (Up by 27.6%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$167.6 million (Up by 63.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$163.3 million (Down by -11.1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$131.2 million (Up by 0.01%)
Uruguay has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for crude and refined petroleum oils as well as petroleum gases.
Uruguayan Export Companies
Not one Uruguayan corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exporters from Uruguay. Selected examples are shown below:
- Aeromás (airliner)
- Alas Uruguay (airlines start-up)
- Effa Motor (vehicles)
- Texlond Corporation (aircraft manufacturer)
- Union Agriculture Group (rice, soya beans, wheat, sheep, cattle)
In macroeconomic terms, Uruguay’s total exported goods represent 8.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($83.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 8.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 9.4% one year earlier. Those percentages indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Uruguay’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Uruguay’s average unemployment rate was 10.35% for 2020, up from 8.925% in 2019, per the International Monetary Fund.
Uruguay’s capital city is Montevideo, Uruguay.
See also Uruguay’s Top 10 Imports, Brazil’s Top 10 Exports and Capital Facts for Montevideo, Uruguay
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook: Country Profiles. Accessed on September 26, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 26, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on September 26, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 26, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 26, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 26, 2021
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on September 26, 2021
Wikipedia, Categories: Companies of Uruguay. Accessed on September 26, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on September 26, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on September 26, 2021
Wikipedia, Uruguay. Accessed on September 26, 2021
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Montevideo, Uruguay. Accessed on September 26, 2021