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Trade Information Bulletin No. 360

Price 10 cents


In carrying out our plan of furnishing to American business men interested in Latin America specific market analyses of the various regions to the south of us, there is presented herein a study of Bolivia as a purchaser of American goods.

Because of the fact that Bolivia has no direct outlet to the sea, much forwarding of goods is done through neighboring South American countries, and it is therefore difficult to state with any degree of accuracy just what our share in Bolivia's import trade is. Nevertheless, we have enough specific data to state that we are each year making appreciable gains. In 1913 our exports to Bolivia were valued at $1,145,556; by 1923 they had risen to $3,038,793; and in 1924 they had reached the high figure of $4,122,417.

In the keen rivalry among exporting nations for the commerce of Bolivia's wealthier neighbors, the markets of Bolivia have sometimes been overlooked and more often misunderstood. It presents aspects for marketing different from those of adjacent countries, which are worthy of study. The predominance of the Indian race, constituting more than 50 per cent of the total population of the country, with its low standards of living and earning power, results in an unequal distribution of wealth and a per capita import trade of only about $6 per annum. The wealthier class is made up of the whites who represent 15 per cent of the inhabitants, but the cholos, or mixture of whites and Indians, are steadily increasing in number and economic importance.

In this bulletin we have devoted the greater part of our attention to the actual requirements of the market, and a review of the methods generally employed in merchandising, in the belief that American manufacturers can acquire therefrom an appreciation of the possibility of increasing their participation in the trade through a more intensive cultivation of the field.


Director Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce.

AUGUST, 1925.

M.S. Yout 9+




By Rollo S. Smith, Latin American Division

In a consideration of Bolivia as a market for American goods the fact must not be lost sight of that, although the surface area comprises about 560,000 square miles, the entire population is at present not over 3,000,000, or approximately that of the city of Chicago, and that probably 70 per cent of this number consists of Indians and mestizos or cholos, whose standards of living are low and whose purchasing power is small. The country's natural wealth is unlimited; its mountains abound in minerals-tin, silver, copper, bismuth, antimony, lead, and wolfram. Rubber trees thrive in its tropical regions, and coffee, cacao, tobacco, sugar cane, and cotton are or can be to a limited extent successfully cultivated. Oil has been discovered and is believed by some to exist in such quantities as to place the nation, at some future date, among the world's most important producers. Capital, labor, and adequate transportation facilities are insufficient as yet for the country's fullest development. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to believe that as the needs of the world increase and as other sources of supply become exhausted investors and pioneers will turn to this rich field and Bolivia will become an important producer and consumer of the world's goods.


Lying between 9° and 23° south latitude and 69° and 57° west longitude, Bolivia has on its northern and eastern frontiers the western States of Brazil, on the south Argentina and Paraguay, and on the west Peru and Chile. It thus constitutes that rare political entity, an inland State.

The country may be divided into three distinct regions, the topography of each of which has a decided effect on the life and industry of its inhabitants. The first, or mountain region, comprises a vast central plateau of 40,000 square miles, extending north and south for over 500 miles, between two ranges of the Andes Mountains, at an altitude of around 12,000 feet. Because of the height the climate is somewhat chilly and vegetation sparse, yet it is here that the principal mineral wealth is located and the chief centers of population exist. The second or "yungas" division includes the eastern slopes of the Andes and their eastern offshoots-a region of deep, fertile valleys. The climate here is the most salubrious of all Bolivia; rainfall is abundant and vegetation correspondingly luxuriant. It is estimated that fully 90 per cent of Bolivia's population inhabit these and the higher plateau regions. Agriculture is the principal industry and coca, coffee, and oranges are the principal products.

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