A landlocked nation in south-central Asia, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan shipped an estimated US$708.7 million worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 24% increase since 2015 but a -19.9% drop from 2018 to 2019.
The latest available country-specific data from 2018 shows that 97.8% of products exported from Afghanistan were bought by importers in: Pakistan (42.9% of the global total), India (40.6%), China (3.2%), Turkey (2.5%), Iran (2.3%), United Arab Emirates (1.8%), Iraq (1.5%), Tajikistan (0.8%), Saudi Arabia (0.7%), Germany (0.6%), Kazakhstan (0.5%) and Jordan (0.3%).
From a continental perspective, 98.1% of Afghanistan’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 1.4% were sold to importers in European. Smaller percentages went to North America (0.4%), Oceania led by Australia (0.1%) and Africa (0.02%).
Given Afghanistan’s population of 38 million people, its total $708.7 million in 2019 exports translates to roughly $20 for every resident in the economically depressed Asian country.
Afghanistan’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Afghan global shipments during 2019, at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Afghanistan.
- Fruits, nuts: US$364.7 million (51.5% of total exports)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $135.1 million (19.1%)
- Tea, spices: $50.2 million (7.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $33.3 million (4.7%)
- Vegetables: $33.2 million (4.7%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $17.4 million (2.5%)
- Oil seeds: $13.7 million (1.9%)
- Textile floor coverings: $11.9 million (1.7%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $5.5 million (0.8%)
- Wool: $4.5 million (0.6%)
Afghanistan’s top 10 exports accounted for 94.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 22,523% from 2018 to 2019 propelled by higher international sales of precious and semi-precious stones. In second place for improving export sales was miscellaneous animal-origin products via a 28.3% gain. Up by 26.2%, Afghanistan’s shipments of gums, resins and other vegetable saps posted the third-fastest gain in value.
The leading decliner among Afghanistan’s top 10 export categories was wool thanks to a -64.8% annual decrease.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, fresh or dried grapes represent Afghanistan ’s most valuable exported product at 20.1% of the country’s total. In second place were natural gums, resins and balsams (19.1%) trailed by dates, figs, pineapples, mangoes, avocadoes and guavas (14.8%), miscellaneous nuts (13.4%) then unstrung precious or semi-precious stones (4.6%).
The following types of Afghan product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Fruits, nuts: US$331.3 million (Down by -4.1% since 2018)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $126.4 million (Up by 18.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $25.1 million (Reversing a -$2.3 million deficit)
- Vegetables: $21.3 million (Reversing a -$56.7 million deficit)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $16.3 million (Reversing a -$16.8 million deficit)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $5.4 million (Up by 27.7%)
- Tea, spices: $4.9 million (Reversing a -$103 million deficit)
- Wool: $3.9 million (Down by -69%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $2 million (Down by -82.6%)
- Furskins, artificial fur: $1.5 million (No 2018 data)
Traditionally, Afghanistan has posted highly positive net exports in the international trade of dried grapes, figs, pistachios, almonds and apricots. In turn, these cashflows indicate Afghanistan’s strong competitive advantages under the fruits and nuts product category.
Overall Afghanistan incurred a -$3 billion trade deficit for 2019, down by -53.3% from -$6.5 billion one year earlier.
Below are exports from Afghanistan that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Afghanistan’s goods trail Afghan importer spending on foreign products.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US-$391.3 million (Up by 46% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$306 million (Down by -16.5%)
- Manmade filaments: -$223.7 million (No 2018 data)
- Milling products, malt, starches: -$222.3 million (Down by -71.4%)
- Machinery including computers: -$221.1 million (Up by 22.6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$197.2 million (Down by -77.6%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$172.1 million (Up by 4621.8%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: -$165.4 million (Up by 2.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$153.1 million (Down by -63.1%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$150.4 million (Up by 67.9%)
Afghanistan has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits notably under the electrical machinery and equipment as well as the vehicles categories. The latter encompasses tanks and other armored fighting vehicles, special purpose vehicles cars, trucks and motorcycles.
Afghan Export Companies
Not one Afghan corporation ranks among the Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Afghanistan. Selected examples are shown below.
- Afghanistan International Bank (commercial bank)
- AZ Corporation (construction materials)
- Khyber Afghan Airlines (cargo airliner)
- Spinzar Cotton Company (cotton)
- Watan Group (oil, mining and telecom conglomerate)
In macroeconomic terms, Afghanistan’s total exported goods represent 0.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($76.6 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 0.9% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 1.5% for 2015. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Afghanistan’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Afghanistan’s unemployment rate was projected to be 11.1% in 2019, same as one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Afghanistan’s capital city is Kabul.
See also Pakistan’s Top 10 Imports, India’s Top 10 Imports and Top Almonds Exporters by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 4, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 4, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, Afghanistan. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Afghanistan. Accessed on June 4, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 4, 2020
WorldOMeter, Afghanistan Population. Accessed on June 4, 2020