Sign of the times: MIA saw surge in PPE, gold imports
Miami International Airport trade fell 9.17 percent in 2020, in near lockstep with the U.S. average of 9.0, recovering in the last quarter of the year from a much steeper decline during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite that, two imports performed well, gold and the category where personal protective equipment – masks and such – were recorded.
But there is a twist to both stories.
With gold, MIA has been a consistently large importer for better than a decade and a particularly large importer in those years when the economy was on the skids and financial markets were biting their fingernails.
Take, for example, 2020.
Gold, the No. 1 import into MIA from 2008 to 2017, before slipping to third and fourth the next two years, increased 128 percent over the 2019 total, an increase worth $1.72 billion.
Gold again ranked No. 1 in 2020.
What’s unusual this year is the imbalance between gold exports and imports. While the two don’t always align, exports actually suffered a large loss, down $570.60 million, or 51.05 percent.
What’s the explanation?
Gold trade is somewhat secretive, but gold also poured into New York’s JFK International Airport – enough to briefly make it the nation’s leading gateway for international trade, ahead of even the Port of Los Angeles. Its gold was coming from Switzerland – which is usually on the receiving end of U.S. gold, including from MIA.
Then there’s PPE. The category that includes PPE increased almost 3,800 percent in 2020. MIA imports in 2019 barely topped $5 million, which was the highest total in years. In 2020, that total popped to $200.24 million.
Here’s the twist. We all know that China has been a large benefactor of the U.S. need for masks and other personal protective equipment during the pandemic. But in the case of MIA, there’s another player: Honduras. And Colombia and Guatemala and Nicaragua and El Salvador and on and on.
While China accounted for 27 percent of the total, Honduras alone accounted for 25 percent. Colombia, Guatemala and Nicaragua accounted for almost 30 percent. It’s our understanding that some of the apparel manufacturers in the region simply switched from socks and t-shirts to masks and the like.