Page last updated at 11:29 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 12:29 UK

Latam exports 'worst in 70 years'

Oil pump in Lagunillas at the west coast of Lake Maracaibo, 700km (420 miles) west of Caracas, Venezuela
Oil exporters such as Venezuela have been hit by the trade slump

Exports from Latin American and Caribbean nations are set to show their steepest fall in more than 70 years, the United Nations has predicted.

The region's exports are expected to shrink in volume by 11% in 2009, says the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac).

If the prediction proves accurate, it will be the worst drop since 1937.

"Policies to reactivate trade are urgently needed," said Eclac executive secretary Alicia Barcena.

Imports are also expected to fall sharply, says Eclac. The commission predicts a decline of 14%, which would be the biggest reduction since 1982.

Oil ills

According to Eclac, Latin America and the Caribbean are feeling the impact of the global economic crisis on four fronts: foreign direct investment, remittances from citizens abroad, commodity prices and trade.

Worst hit have been countries that thrive on exporting commodities, oil and minerals.

Venezuela and Ecuador (which are oil exporters), Colombia (oil and coal) and Bolivia (natural gas) could see their exports slashed by as much as 32.6% this year, Eclac says.

In the first half of 2009, mineral and oil exports from the region slumped by 50.7%, while exports of manufactured and agricultural products showed lesser falls of 23.9% and 17% respectively.

The steepest fall was in exports to the European Union (-36.3% in total) and the US (-35.3%).

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