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Costa Rican goods exports close 2020 with historic record, despite the pandemic

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Once again, Costa Rica’s export sector demonstrates its resilience to the challenges of the pandemic by closing 2020 with a +1.9% growth in goods exports, reaching an all-time record of $11.683 billion, $202 million more than exported in 2019.

The four main sectors closed the year positively: precision and medical equipment exported +8% and accounted for 34% of total exported goods, the agricultural sector grew +2% and had a share of 24% in 2020, the food industry achieved a performance of +7% and with a representation of 14%, while the pharmaceutical chemical sector had an increase of +3% and accounted for 6% of exports.

At the quarterly level and in comparison with 2019, the behaviour of exports marked the arrival and progress of the global crisis, as well as the country’s export capacity. In the first quarter there was a positive start of +9%, in the second quarter the effects of the pandemic on exports were evident when they decreased by -12%, in the third quarter there was a growth of +1% and signs of recovery began to be seen; and finally, in the fourth quarter the recovery was consolidated with a growth of +10%.


“2020 was a very challenging year that negatively affected many sectors in the country and the world, a year that tested people’s capacity to innovate and reinvent themselves. Despite the pandemic, border closures and other barriers, the export sector demonstrated a high capacity for resilience, reinforced by the country’s good practices in areas such as diversification of destinations, customers, means of transport and innovation in sales channels. We thank the export sector for the great work done last year, and we reiterate that in the foreign trade sector they have an ally to continue consolidating their presence in international markets,” said the Minister of Foreign Trade and President of the Board of Directors of PROCOMER, Andrés Valenciano.

For his part, Pedro Beirute, General Manager of the Promotora, highlighted the valuable contribution of the export sector to the country and how significant this growth is. “This sector represents 34% of GDP and employs more than one million people, so this recovery is really important at the end of 2020. According to projections by the World Trade Organization (WTO), world exports of goods will close 2020 with a fall of -9.2%, while in Costa Rica we are closing with positive numbers. This is not only a message of optimism and confidence for the world, but also for the sector itself, which has once again demonstrated its robustness, versatility and resilience.



Beirute added that the fourth quarter of 2020 confirmed the growing trend of exports, with a growth of +16% in December, the highest in the last five years, a behaviour that is expected to continue in 2021.

At the market level, exports of goods performed positively in Asia (+6%) due to higher shipments of sugar, needles and catheters, and pork; North America (+5%) due to medical devices, palm oil and infusion and transfusion equipment; Europe (+2%) due to medical devices, bananas and pineapple; and in South America (+15%) due to beverage syrups, batteries, and stoma devices. However, Central America closed the year with a drop of -5% due to lower shipments of glass containers and fertilisers; and the Caribbean with -5% for glass containers and beverage preparations.

Exports of services as of Q3

The services sector has not been spared by the pandemic and in the third quarter of 2020 showed a decrease of -24%, mainly due to the fall in the travel category. As of September last year, the sector exported $5,367 million, which is $1,734 million less than in the same period of 2019.

Knowledge-intensive sub-sectors such as business services and computer, information and telecommunication grew by +$171 million and +$40 million, respectively. This performance cushions the decline in travel and transport.

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