Despite the Pandemic, Medical and Food Industries Boosted Record Exports of Costa Rican Products

    Exports of goods represent 55% of the total (except services) and reached their highest levels in history, despite COVID-19

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    Despite the logistical complications of 2020 due to the novel SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Pandemic, Costa Rica reached record figures in its exports of goods. The country managed to export 1.9% more than in 2019, mainly due to the behavior of the medical and food equipment industries. In total, exports of goods in 2020 reached $ 11,683 million; that is, they grew by $ 214 million in the year-on-year comparison.

    The precision and medical equipment sector —which represents 34% of the total share of exports— was the one that grew the most in 2020 with a year-on-year variation of 8% compared to last year; that is, $ 297 million.

    Dynamic medical sector

    The Minister of Foreign Trade (Comex), Andrés Valenciano, highlighted the dynamism of the medical devices sector, which he described as an essential sector to maintain growth in the country’s exports of goods despite Coronavirus. As he said, this reaffirms that “Costa Rica made a great commitment to create a hub and bring in companies that increasingly have more advanced manufacturing.”

    Valenciano also stressed that the country achieved great results in the export of medical supplies largely thanks to the management that was made about the Pandemic, since it was possible to keep the borders open for trade, as an essential point for this type of merchandise.

    For his part, the general manager of the Foreign Trade Promoter (Procomer), Pedro Beirute, stressed that when talking about medical supplies, they talk about “advanced manufacturing”, with a very wide scope, ranging “from basic things, like syringes, to more complex things like prostheses, heart valves, contact lenses or breast implants.” “This is where the world is going and having opted for a growing sector was a good public policy decision, although by itself it would be insufficient,” he added.

    Food industry

    A little further behind medical supplies was the food industry —which represents 14% of the total—, whose sales grew 7%, about $ 105 million. In this regard, Beirute recalled that it is the group least affected by the Pandemic, due to its condition being of basic necessity.

    Sales in the agricultural sector also grew by 2% ($ 51 million), representing 24% of the goods exported; as well as those of the chemical and pharmaceutical sector by 3% ($ 20 million), which represent 6% of the total.

    Despite the good overall results, six other sectors (electronics, metalworking, plastics, livestock and fish products, rubber, and others) fell 9.8%. All of them represent a fifth of the national goods exported.

    Exports of goods represent 55% of total exports, while the remaining 45% corresponds to the services sector. Procomer has not yet closed the final table of that last block in 2020 and, for the moment, only records the figures until the third quarter. These account for a 24% drop until September, driven by the tourism sector.


    Given this positive outlook for Costa Rica, the leaders highlighted the diversity of the national offer, which allowed greater resilience to the change in the needs and dynamics of consumption on the planet. Costa Rican exports fell by as much as 20% in May, during the first months of Covid-19, but managed to recover in the last 120 days of the year, according to official records.

    Besides, the minister highlighted that the sectors that have been given the greatest boost are those that are currently growing the most, which opens room for greater optimism.

    “The declining sectors have a lower relative weight for our exports and that makes the total positive,” said Beirute. “All this shows the commitment that was made many years ago not to depend on only primary products from the agricultural sector,” added the Valencian minister.

    Further diversification

    The Beirute manager also pointed out that they are already working on mechanisms to further diversify the country’s production, and even recalled that they are working with the Discover program. This plan intends to further expand the country’s agricultural offer, with products that are not yet developed on a large scale.

    On the general results so far, however, the reaction is positive. “If we compare ourselves with other reference countries with which we compete for goods and services, it is positive. Costa Rica, despite the pandemic, showed a positive performance and we have had a gradual recovery in recent months and if we compare it with world powers like Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan or South Korea, it was a satisfactory performance. “

    “It is also positive if we compare it with international forecasts. The WTO said that world exports were going to contract by 9.2% and the IDB said that in Latin America they were going to contract by 13%, and this has occurred in Most of the countries, however, Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that, despite the pandemic, had growth in its exports of goods last year, “said Beirute.

    Resonance Costa Rica
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