Substantial returns from copper markets and a booming primary produce industry helped Chilean exporters set a record high in 2011, despite fluctuating international markets and tough environmental conditions.
On Monday Chile’s Central Bank registered a trade surplus of US$10.6 billion for the previous year. In a reflection of global uncertainties, however, that figure was 33 percent lower than the US$15.9 billion surplus of 2010.
But it was the country’s export figures that were the real success story of the year, bucking international trends to reach a record high of US$80.5 billion, up 13.5 percent from 2010.
Exports were led by copper shipments, which rose 5.9 percent from the previous year, from US$40.3 billion to US$42.6 billion, once again securing Chile’s position as the world’s largest producer of the red metal.
Perhaps more impressive were the figures for agricultural exports, which hit record levels in 2011 despite the onset of La Niña, a weather phenomenon which caused widespread drought in many prime producing parts of the country.
The forestry and agriculture sectors earned US$14.3 billion in exports over the course of the year, up 16 percent from 2010 and 12 percent from 2008.
Forestry products, including wood pulp and pinewood, reported the highest increase in returns, accounting for US$5.3 billion, representing a 24 percent increase from 2010.
Fruit and wine figures both recorded significantly higher returns, with fruit exports adding US$3.7 billion to the Chilean economy, while the country’s prized wine industry raised US$1.5 billion in returns.
Research director at the National Society of Agriculture, Ema Budinich, told El Mercurio that the primary reason for 2011’s record export returns was an increase in productivity, which helped the sector overcome lower-than-average international value on the products.
Budinich claimed that technological advances and advance planning had helped the industry boost productivity, saying that producers had developed hardier strains of fruit.
“In fruit there is a whole line of innovation to develop varieties that are resistant to drought,” said Budinich.
Overall imports to Chile also rose significantly, up 26.8 percent to US$70 billion, a figure driven by strong domestic demand in terms of both investment and consumption.