The UN Economic and Social Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), blamed the global economic crisis for the decline.
The report, dubbed “International Trade in Latin America and the Caribbean 2009: Crisis and Recovery,” said the value of imports in the region also decreased by 25 per cent.
The UN said the 24 per cent drop in the value of the region’s exports represents a combined 15 per cent decline in value and nine per cent decrease in volume.
“This simultaneous decrease in price and volume is unprecedented in recent history,” the report said, noting that the last similar situation took place in 1937.
The report also stated that although both exports and imports declined significantly, “the drop is not as bad as during the first part of 2009, when they declined by 31 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively.”
“This implies a better outlook for 2010,” ECLAC said, attributing the “economic recovery” in the last quarter of 2009 to, among other things, the partial rise in the price of several commodities, such as copper, zinc, oil, wheat and soya, and the strong demand from China since the second quarter of last year.
The report cited what it described as “significant differences” between countries and sub-regions.
It said while exports diminished 42 per cent in Venezuela and 32 per cent in Andean countries as a whole, they decreased 29 per cent in the Caribbean; 22 per cent in Mexico and Chile; and only six per cent in Central America, excluding Mexico.
The study said mining and oil exports fared the worst, with an average decline of 42.3 per cent from January to September 2009.
It said manufactured products dropped 25.4 per cent and agricultural and livestock exports decreased 18.4 per cent.
Last month, ECLAC predicted that Latin America and the Caribbean will bounce back faster than expected from the global financial crisis, with growth projected at over four per cent in 2010.
In its annual report, ECLAC said it expected positive growth rates for most countries in the region, but noted there are still doubts about whether the recovery will be sustainable, “since external scenarios remain uncertain and could impact the area”.