Business Monday

MIA jumps to No. 1 in nation for exports of a vital medication

Overall exports from South Florida fell 10.62 percent last year. Not so good.

But exports in the category that includes Heparin increased a robust 31.74 percent. In fact, among the top 100 exports from South Florida last year, only two grew more rapidly than Heparin, an anticoagulant with many pharmacological and surgical uses.

Even more interesting: Over the last two years, South Florida’s overall exports have fallen 13.70 percent. Exports in the Heparin category, meanwhile, have increased 987.55 percent. Among the top 100 exports, not one grew more rapidly.

And over the last three years, South Florida’s overall exports have fallen 19.94 percent from the 2012 record. In the same time period, from 2012 to 2015, outbound shipments in the Heparin category have increased an eye-popping 2,799.02 percent. No export among the top 450 has grown as rapidly in that time period.

Heparin is a medication so integral to human well-being that it is listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, a roster of medications that WHO deems to essential for a basic health system.

It also is becoming increasingly important in South Florida trade. Heparin finished 2015 as South Florida’s 24th most valuable export, with a value of $437.18 million. That was 11 positions higher than the previous year, with only one other top 50 export jumping more positions in one year.

In 2010, it ranked No. 213 among South Florida’s exports. A decade ago, it had ranked No. 858.

And those two top 100 exports that grew more rapidly in 2015 than Heparin? They were also healthcare-related. One fell into the category that includes vaccines, which increased 53.13 percent from their 2014 total and ranked No. 19 among all exports. The other was in a medicine category that included hormones, which ranked No. 63 and increased 183.50 percent.

The bigger picture is that as Miami International Airport pursues its new initiative to become a leading global pharma hub, statistics like these will matter.

This is, in fact, an MIA story. Almost all of the Heparin exports leaving South Florida are flying out of MIA. It is also an Italian story. Almost all of the exports are bound for just one country, Italy.

With the recent growth, MIA now leads the nation in exports of Heparin, accounting for 36.02 percent of the 2015 total. Two years ago, MIA accounted for just 2.93 percent of the U.S. total. Clearly, two years ago, this was not big business here. Even the 2.93 percent market share was, at the time, a record percentage for the airport, almost tripling the market share from the previous year.

Prior to the shift to MIA, the leading gateway for Heparin exports for three years had been New York’s JFK International. But as MIA grew, JFK shrank. In 2015, JFK’s market share fell to 3.02 percent.

The lesson: These exports can pick up and move relatively quickly. Over the last decade, Chicago’s O’Hare, San Francisco International Airport and Cleveland’s Hopkins International Airport have been the leading gateways.

While the leading airport for these exports has shifted several times over the last decade, the primary market has not. Italy has been the No. 1 U.S. market for these exports for 15 consecutive years.

In 2015, Italy accounted for 39.43 percent of the exports leaving the United States — with MIA accounting for almost 96 percent of the total.

Two things have changed, however, when looking at the U.S. export market for this essential product.

The first is that even as MIA’s exports are soaring through the stratosphere, U.S. exports to Italy have fallen four consecutive years, as have U.S. exports to the world. The two years that MIA has led the nation in these outbound shipments are the first years that Italy’s exports have fallen below $500 million since 2008 and the first years U.S. exports fell below $1.3 billion in that same time period.

The second change is Italy’s dominance.

Even as the value of U.S. exports has dropped, the value of exports to Italy has dropped more rapidly. For the last five years, Italy has accounted for between 36.22 percent to 39.43 percent of all shipments leaving the United States. But from 2005 to 2007, Italy had accounted for more than 64 percent of the total.

That difference — the nearly 25 percentage points of market share that drained from Italy — has been spread among a host of nations, including but not limited to France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany, as well as Japan and China.

From a U.S. perspective, what this means is that MIA is capturing a bigger piece of a smaller pie. For example, for the three years that JFK led the nation, its outbound shipments were valued at more than $500 million, or about 20 percent more than those leaving MIA in 2015.

For MIA and South Florida’s trade community, the key to becoming a global pharmaceutical hub is to continue to grow its Heparin, hormone and vaccine exports.

It also needs to continue to grow the category for medications in pill form, the leading export in this arena, ranked No. 6 in 2015 in South Florida with a value of $1.17 billion. Just five year ago, medicine exports — covering a wide variety of medications — had ranked No. 11.

Most of those medications, unlike Heparin but like so much of South Florida’s trade, head south, to Latin America and the Caribbean. Four of the top five markets and nine of the top 10 are Latin American markets, accounting for 88.44 percent of all outbound shipments. The lone exception is, of course, Italy.

As Latin America’s middle class continues to emerge long-term, MIA and South Florida are positioned well to serve a growing demand for better access to better medicine and healthcare generally.

Reach Ken Roberts, president of WorldCity, at Twitter: @tradenumbers.

Heparin exports by ports












Total Heparin exports, all ports

$ 1,213,245,890

$ 1,274,275,689






Miami International Airport

$ 437,037,307

$ 331,752,411






San Francisco International Airport

$ 254,954,876

$ 172,666,653






Chicago O'Hare International Airport

$ 212,624,884

$ 262,135,425






Los Angeles International Airport

$ 61,674,333

$ 97,262,395






Port of New Orleans

$ 55,494,895

$ 48,926,427






JFK International Airport

$ 36,686,448

$ 206,211,566






Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

$ 26,668,527

$ 23,847,313






Port of Newark, N.J.

$ 22,514,846

$ 15,501,521






Port of Anchorage, Alaska

$ 15,967,048

$ 12,610,263






Washington, D.C. airports

$ 14,702,195

$ 13,330,839






Boston Logan International Airport

$ 14,034,816

$ 16,658,695






Port of Otay Mesa, Calif.

$ 11,371,103

$ 4,050,947






Port of New York

$ 10,419,217

$ 13,266,613






Denver International Airport

$ 8,146,612

$ 7,367,048






Philadelphia International Airport

$ 5,930,351

$ 4,446,109





Source: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data