San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Exports Grow 15.4% In First Half of Year

Costa Rica’s exports grew 15.4% during the first half of 2007, reported the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX) Tuesday.

Costa Rica exported $4.68 billion worth of goods during the first half of 2007, an increase of $604 million over the same period in 2006. In the first half of 2006, however, exports increased 18.5% over the year before.

Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruíz and Martín Zúñiga, general manager of the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER) blamed the slight slowdown on the ongoing struggles of the country’s textile industry and melon producers.

“We are satisfied with the 15.4%, but we have a long way to go,” Ruíz said at a press conference announcing the new figures.

Still, most of the country’s export sectors posted double-digit growth. One unusual winner was milk, which jumped from $10 million in exports during the first half of 2006 to $16.3 million in 2007, thanks to both higher international prices and the opening of the Dominican Republic market.

Likewise, the food products sector posted a 35.6% growth in exports, thanks to greater international demand for fruit juices, sugar and ethanol.

While the manufacturing sector posted a strong 14.5% growth in exports, that industry had increased its exports by 21.4% the previous year. Ruíz blamed the weak manufacturing growth on uncertainty about the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), which Costa Rica will either approve or reject by referendum this October.

Ruíz noted the textile industry has been struggling to compete since 2004. During the first semester of 2007, exports from that sector were down to $221.6 million, from $244.5 million the year before.

Also, while Costa Rica increased exports to nearly all its trading partners, the greatest increase was to China: the value of Tico goods sold to that Asian giant increased by nearly 50%, to $626.3 million from $420.1 million during the same period in 2006.

President Oscar Arias has said he wants to increase Costa Rica’s exports to $18 billion by the year 2010. Last year, Costa Rica exported $8.2 billion (TT, Jan. 19).


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