Exports of goods during the first quarter of this year grew 8.7 percent over the same period last year, officials from the Foreign Trade Ministry and the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER) reported this week.
Costa Rican exporters sold goods worth $2.5 billion in the past quarter , representing a $208 million increase over the previous year.
Sales of agricultural products led the sales figures at 27 percent, followed by medical and precision equipment at 26 percent, and food products at 15 percent, the agencies noted.
Companies operating inside the free zone regime are the ones driving the boost in exports. Sales from these companies grew by 17.4 percent.
North American countries were the biggest buyers of Tico goods, accounting for 43 percent of the total sales. The Central American nations followed at 22 percent, the same figure of exports to European Union countries.
Exports to Asia showed a big improvement, driven mainly by a 76 percent increase in purchases from China.
The only negative figure in the past quarter was a 20 percent drop in sales to South America, caused mainly by a decrease in sales to Venezuela.
Foreign Trade Vice Minister Jhon Fonseca said the figures are quite encouraging and reflect the efforts of both public and private sectors to keep the country growing.
According to the report, even after removing figures from the Intel effect — referring to export figures from the plant that the microchip giant closed here in 2014 — “the quarter’s figures are the highest in the last five years.”
PROCOMER General Manager Pedro Beirute said that growth figures are positive, especially when compared to those from other Latin American countries and even from more advanced economies. He said that the United States, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, China, Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama all reported drops in their export figures during the same period.
Despite the overall good news, exports of textiles, leather, footwear, paper and plastics recorded a drop in sales during the last quarter.
Services also up
COMEX and PROCOMER officials also presented a report of service exports from 2016. Costa Rica last year exported $8.2 billion in services, representing 11 percent growth over 2015. The increase came mostly from the strong performance of companies in the tourism sector, which accounted for 44.4 percent of the total.
Business services as well as telecommunications and information Services followed with 33.2 and 13.4 percent respectively.
The report highlighted that Costa Rica surpassed the services exports target by 8.3 percent. Sales in the services sector have maintained a positive trend for the past five years, PROCOMER said.
Industrial sector disagrees
“There is definitely a huge difference between what the government and we call favorable behavior,” said Chamber president Francisco Gamboa in a news release.
Gamboa cited as an example that manufacturing exports outside the free zone regime “barely grew by 0.46 percent and actually fell in several destinations.”
The chamber also cited products that recorded drops in sales during the past quarter such as electric cables, medicines, disinfectants, beverages, aluminum, labels and cardboard.