MONTEVIDEO -- Exports from Uruguay grew by 31.3 percent in 2008, its biggest increase in the last four years, despite the negative effects that the international financial crisis had on this country in the last two months of the year, according to an official report released Saturday.
Figures from Uruguay XXI, the investment and export promotion institute, showed that in 2008 Uruguayan exports totaled $6.05 billion.
The performance of foreign sales nonetheless varied between the first and second halves of the year.
The average monthly increase between January and July was 48.4 percent compared with 2007, but the decline in recent months has alerted exporters to a possible continuation of unfavorable results through much of 2009.
November saw a drop of 8.1 percent, which eased off in December to 2.4 percent.
Despite the decrease in sales to some traditional buyers due to the crisis, sales of meat and meat derivatives continued spearheading Uruguayan trade, with an increase in 2008 of 49.2 percent.
However, the increase was basically due to the rising price of meat, since in fact the total quantity exported dropped 10 percent compared with the previous year.
Cereal sales also jumped 59.5 percent and the third big export sector, dairy products and honey, rose 24 percent, again thanks to better prices on the market but also to a greater volume of purchases.
With regard to clients, Brazil continued to top all other buyers of Uruguayan products, with sales in that country growing by 33.2 percent to make up 16.6 percent of the Uruguay's total exports.
The United States in contrast went from being the second largest importer of Uruguayan goods in 2007 to seventh largest in 2008.
Argentina was the second biggest buyer with an increase of 32.3 percent, while Russia was third, tripling in 2008 its imports from the South American country.