Wednesday 20 October 2021

Costa Rica is the Main Exporter of Palm Oil in 2020

In 2020, Costa Rica positioned itself as the largest exporter in Central America by selling US$148.4 million, and the Netherlands acquired 24.87% of the region's exports.

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QCOSTARICA – In 2020, Costa Rica was the largest exporter of palm oil in the region, selling US$148.4 million, followed by Panama with US$28.7 million, followed by Nicaragua with US$2.2 million, followed by El Salvador with US$400,000.

Palm oil tree. From

During the year, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua increased their sales in year-on-year terms by 69.3%, 33.8% and 11%, respectively. El Salvador’s exports decreased by 4.9%.

The Netherlands, Main Buyer

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Last year, 24.87% of the value exported from Central America was exported to the Netherlands, 22.58% to Mexico, 17.55% to Spain, 8.77% to El Salvador and 8.34% to Italy.

However, a downward trend in regional business is being experienced. Between 2019 and 2020, the exported value of palm oil recorded a 17.6% decrease, falling from US$811 million to US$668.1 million.

In the case of traded volume, it decreased by 33.03% for the periods under analysis, going from 1.581 million tons in 2019 to 1.058 million tons in 2020.

Costa Rica’s palm oil sector is a relatively recent development with roots in the banana industry, which thrived in the country in the early 20th century. In the 1940s, the United Fruit Company (UFC) faced a crisis.

UFC workers in Costa Rica in this undated photo. From

In order to maintain profits in the region, UFC executives decided to experiment with palm oil. The investment in palm paid off. Manufacturers around the globe soon realized the potential that this product had for widespread commercial use as a cheap substitute for other fatty oils, like cocoa butter.


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