Richard Browne, Business Reporter
What has Jamaica ever exported to Slovenia, apart perhaps from famous veteran sprinter Merlene Ottey?
The answer is elusive, but the European country ranks among Jamaica's top trading partners, when measured by export value, and is likely to remain in the top five in 2013, according to the most recent trading data.
The rise of Slovenia points to the changing face of Jamaica's export markets, where some of Jamaica's traditional trading partners are fading in importance, making room for newer ones - like Georgia, Iceland, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Statistical Institute of Jamaica data places Slovenia in fifth position among the top consumption markets for the January to May 2013 period, as well as the comparative period in 2012.
One of Slovenia's largest industries is the production of ferrous metallurgy and aluminum products, and statistics from the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) show that the country was Jamaica's fourth largest market for alumina in 2012.
Slovenia was one of the first republics to break away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, and joined the European Union in 2004.
It is smaller in population with just over two million - Jamaica has 2.7 million people - but is close to twice the size with land mass of 7,829 square miles compared to Jamaica's 4,244 square miles.
Apart from Merlene Ottey, Slovenia's adopted fastest woman sprinter, the European country has no obvious cultural or historical links to Jamaica.
alumina from jamalco
Neither Statin nor the Jamaica Export Association responded up to press time to questions on precisely what goods Jamaica exports to the small European nation on the Adriatic Sea. JBI statistics show that all of the alumina sold to Slovenia comes from Jamalco.
But according to the CIA World Factbook, Slovenia was Jamaica's fourth largest export market in 2012, with 5.6 per cent of Jamaica's exports.
The top three markets were the United States with 38.7 per cent, Russia with 8.1 per cent, and Canada with 7.8 per cent - all of which were large importers of Jamaican alumina, and well-established trading partners of long standing.
Only Canada, which imported almost 300,000 tonnes of alumina last year, was a bigger buyer of the industrial mineral than the small European nation of Slovenia.
According to statistics from the JBI, Slovenia imported 243,000 tonnes of Jamaican alumina in 2012.
Behind Slovenia, the third largest buyer of Jamaica's alumina was another new market - the UAE, which imported 236,000 tonnes. That country has also made it onto the Jamaican radar in recent years as a major destination for Jamaican pilots seeking new jobs after leaving former national airline Air Jamaica.
Other large importers of Jamaican alumina are Iceland and Georgia.
All four countries - Slovenia, Georgia, Iceland and the UAE are now among the top 10 Jamaican export markets for overall trade.
In a suppressed world economy, the US imported only 43,000 tonnes of alumina in 2012, and Russia just over 200,000 tonnes. Russian company UC Rusal is heavily invested in Jamaica's bauxite industry, owning 100 per cent of Alpart and 93 per cent of Windalco.
Jamaica exported US$638 million worth of bauxite and alumina in 2012, according to the Economic and Social Social Survey.
The stage has been set for Slovenia to be one of Jamaica's largest export partners for 2013 as well, according to the JBI statistics.
The country imported more than 130,000 tonnes of alumina up to August 2013, which put it in third place behind Canada with 360,000 tonnes and the Netherlands with 240,000 tonnes.
Jamaica's top 10 export markets for January to May 2013, according to Statin data, were: the US with imports of US$383 million; Canada, US$77 million; the United Kingdom, US$59 million; the Netherlands, US$38 million; Slovenia, US$24.9 million; and Georgia in sixth place, US$24.7 million.
Iceland, which is pulling out of a deep economic recession and which has a population of 320,000 or slightly larger than Barbados, was seventh with imports of US$20 million from Jamaica.
Russia, the UAE and Japan rounded off the list.
Jamaica sold US$1.64 billion of goods to overseas markets in 2012. Statin has not yet posted full country data for 2012 trade on its website, although it has released figures for the January to May 2013 period.
The 2013 figures compare to 2004, the earliest year available on the Statin website, when the top Jamaica's top 10 trading partners were the US, Canada, China, the UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Norway, France, Japan and Sweden.