The COVID-19 pandemic created instability in different ways worldwide and exports was one of them. Even so, Costa Rica's exports of goods grew 1.9% in 2020 reaching a historic record of US $11,683 million: $214 million more than 2019.
The figure exceeds the performance of Latin America and the Caribbean which saw a 13% decline in its exports during the same period.
The ecosystem’s resilience was a key “ingredient” that made growth possible for Costa Rica. Although the MedTech industry, which is the country´s #1 export product was affected, particularly for elective therapies and procedures, the overall balance was positive. Manufacturing companies were able to continue operating following all Health Authority protocols without shutdowns and supply chain disruptions, a task very much attributed to cohesive coordination among foreign trade institutions including CINDE; Procomer, the Exports Agency; and the Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX).
Even during 2020, Life Sciences continues to lead Costa Rica's goods exports representing 34% of total exports which amounts to US$3,941 million. This sector grew 8% from the previous year and showed a net variation of more than US$297 million. The United States and Europe were the main export destinations.
The services sector also showcased its capability to adapt. In a matter of days since the first reported case in the country, 98% of the service companies in Costa Rica were working 100% remotely, putting to the test Costa Rica´s capability in digital skills and connectivity.
Leveraging digital skills to drive business transformation
Another sector that triggered the export growth is corporate services and information and communication technologies (ICT) which encompassed 68% of Costa Rica’s total services exports by Q3 of 2020. which represents an absolute variation of US $211 million to the same period in 2019. These results demonstrated how Costa Rica stands as a strong partner for tech and knowledge-intensive companies to drive their operations from a “follow the sun” to an “outrun the sun” strategy.
According to data for the third quarter, in the last two years, corporate services grew 6% each year while ICT services, 5%. The study was released days ago by the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER) and the Central Bank of Costa Rica.
As stated in a press release, the Minister of Foreign Trade, Andrés Valenciano, said: “2020 was a very challenging year that negatively affected many sectors locally and globally, it was a year that tested the ability to innovate and reinvent ourselves.”
“Despite the pandemic, the closure of borders, and other barriers, the exports sector demonstrated a high resilient capacity, reinforced by good practices in topics such as diversification of destinations, customers, transportation, and innovation in sales channels. We thank the export sector for the great work done last year and reiterate that they have an ally to continue consolidating their presence in international markets,” he concluded.
The growth in exports also benefited from traditional products from the agricultural sector, which increased 2% from 2019 to 2020; the food industry with 7% growth and the pharmaceutical chemical sector with 3% increase in the same period.