Costa Rica - Country Commercial Guide
Construction Equipment

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-11-10

Overview

Table 3: Costa Rica Construction Equipment Manufacturing Data (Millions of U.S. Dollars)

Year

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021 (estimated)

2022 (estimated)

Total Market Size*

91

72

57

111

80

78

Total Local Production

12

10

11

20

15

8

Total Exports

7

6

6

11

15

12

Total Imports

87

68

52

102

80

82

Imports from the U.S.

22

19

17

32

32

34

*Total Market Size = (Total Local Production + Total Imports) – (Total Exports); Data Source: Costa Rican Customs Directorate

The world economic downturn in the late 2000’s brought a dramatic halt to a previously flourishing construction sector.  In recent years the sector has begun to recover.  However, in 2021 area permits are declining as result of lower investment in private sector.

Leading Sub-Sectors

The construction equipment with market potential in Costa Rica includes tractors, backhoes, shovel loaders, asphalt and concrete mixers, and dump trucks.  U.S. construction equipment enjoys an excellent reputation in the Costa Rican market due to its high quality, the availability of spare parts, maintenance and repair services through dealerships, competitive pricing, and reliable ocean and air shipping services.

The building materials market has been shifting toward local materials, and imports continue to fall.  The higher cost of imported building materials has fueled the increase in local production.

Opportunities

In 2020 there was a marked increase in imported construction equipment.  While construction of roads and highways during the pre-electoral period partially compensated for the decline of residential and commercial construction,  overall construction declined by 2.1 percent this year.

The United States is the second largest supplier of construction equipment to the Costa Rican market.  2020 import figures show that U.S. construction equipment constitutes $32 million of the total $102 million, a 31 percent market share.  For 2021, U.S. imports to Costa Rica are expected to reach $32 million, which will represent a market share increase.  Major third-country competitors are Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, the U.K., Italy, and Germany.

Opportunities exist across a range of residential construction sub-sectors in Costa Rica.  2021-2022 residential construction is projected to recuperate due to new financing opportunities offered by public and private banks.  This will increase the overall performance of the construction sector in Costa Rica.  Construction credits have emigrated from U.S. dollar loans to local currency due to the risk of devaluation.  Through May 2021, 52 percent of permits submitted for new construction were for residential construction.

A good opportunity for U.S. companies in Costa Rica is the Expo-Construcción trade fair, which takes place in mid-February every year.  The coming 2022 version will host several international companies, generating both global and regional appeal.  For additional information contact Mr. Mauricio Obando at the Chamber of Construction at: camara@construccion.co.cr

Concessions Overview:  A Demand Pull-through for Construction Equipment

The Government of Costa Rica uses the Public Works Concession Law for the development of large infrastructure projects.  These projects include roads, highways, bridges, airport modernization, port improvement, rehabilitation of the railroad system, and water-wastewater systems, among other projects.  The projects are offered to private local and foreign companies and consortiums through a public bidding process under the BOT (build-operate-transfer) concession scheme, as stipulated in the Public Works Concession Law.

A goal of the Alvarado administration (2018-present) has been to revise the concession law to correct its loopholes in which companies can overcharge the Costa Rican government for design, construction, and operation of different projects. In late 2017 the Costa Rican government issued a new regulation that allows Public- Private Alliances.  This is expected to be widely supported, increasing investment in different infrastructure projects. 

The Costa Rican Government, with COCESNA (Regional Aviation Authority), has started the process of building a new airport in Orotina, to serve the Greater San Jose Metropolitan Area.  Construction was expected to start in 2022. Alvarado administration changed priority on this project however many sectors like tourism and exporters have stated their concerns to delay this investment. 

Meanwhile, the government and current Juan Santamaría International (SJO) administrator, AERIS, have invested to improve the current infrastructure to facilitate increasing tourism and cargo needs in the main international airport of Costa Rica.  This may change with the new administration that will start May 2022.

The concession tender to build a new port in Moin (Limon Province) was issued in 2010.  This port project has an estimated total cost of $1 billion, and construction began in 2015. Although the project was granted to the Dutch-based based company APM Terminals, U.S. companies have been able to participate in subcontracts on this project. The new port terminal began operations in February 2019. New initiatives to improve port capabilities have been announced for the Atlantic coast which includes a new cruise terminal for Limón, that would include a new marina, commercial and free trade zone facilities.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation has announced that it will be using new public tenders for the construction of several roads. One such project is the planned improvement of the portion of the Pan-American highway from San José to San Ramón. The total cost is $65.7 million. Funding will come from a trust created jointly with Banco de Costa Rica. During 2021 has been changes in the toll collections to allow this trust starting investments.

U.S. Foreign Commercial Service Costa Rica has implemented the Deal Team initiative to help U.S. companies interested in participating in these infrastructure opportunities by providing market intelligence and support to connect with other interested companies and U.S. financial agencies.  The Alvarado Administration has a stated interest to promote infrastructure projects to reactivate the economy post-pandemic and recognizes the contribution of the sector to the local economy.

​​​​​​​Resources

Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles (Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels)

Consejo Nacional de Concesiones (National Concessions Council)

Costa Rican Chamber of Construction 

Costa Rican Customs Directorate

Ministry of Public Works and Transportation

U.S. Commercial Service Costa Rica

Ricardo Cardona - Senior Commercial Specialist

Email: Ricardo.Cardona@trade.gov