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Costa Rica exports up 7 percent in 2016

Costa Rica’s export sector appears to be on the rebound after several years of decline, according to a report released Tuesday by Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX) and Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER).

During the first six months of this year, the value of Costa Rican goods exported abroad totalled just over $5 billion, representing 7 percent growth compared to the same period last year.

Sales from free zone-based companies showed the highest growth at 13 percent, while all other companies reported a 2 percent increase, COMEX reported.

The positive figures represent a trend towards stabilization following sustained declines in exports since 2012, which were further aggravated by the closure of Intel’s microchip manufacturing plant in 2014.

Speaking at a news conference, Foreign Trade Minister Alexander Mora noted that the country had finally overcome the so-called “Intel effect,” as ministry officials forecasted it would this year.

“In 2014, we predicted that the Intel effect would be over by 2016. Now we are seeing it, and we expect the second half of the year to be even better,” Mora said.

The minister said it was reassuring to see the country doing well “at a time when the whole region is facing difficulties.”

By sector

According to the report, Costa Rica’s export growth during the first quarter of this year outperformed big Latin American economies including Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. PROCOMER General Manager Pedro Beirute said the growth has been largely the result of diversification of both products and markets.

Agricultural exports made up the largest share, 29 percent, of total value during the first half of this year, followed by medical devices at 24 percent.

Medical devices have become an increasingly important part of Costa Rica’s export sector. Two years ago, in the first half of 2014, medical device exports made up 17 percent of total exports compared to 24 percent this year.

Processed food made up 16 percent of total exports during the first half of this year, followed by electrical and electronic devices at 6 percent, and chemical and pharmaceutical products at 5 percent.

Livestock and fishing exports fell by 18 percent. Beirute said the drop was a direct result of low prices for tilapia and beef on international markets and decreasing demand from emerging countries. Sales of Costa Rican tilapia faced strong competition, mostly from China, while the U.S. has increased beef production, lowering demand for Costa Rican beef.

Cumulative sales in the first half of this year represent 47 percent of the total 2016 export target set by COMEX.

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