Afghanistan’s Top 10 Exports

Afghan flag


A landlocked nation in south-central Asia, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan shipped US$421.1 million worth of goods around the globe in 2016. That dollar amount results from a 4.4% gain since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in, but a -26.3% decline from 2015 to 2016.

Afghanistan’s top 10 exports accounted for 89.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Afghanistan’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $67.5 billion in April 2017 (on a purchasing power parity basis). Therefore, exports represent an estimated 0.6% of total Afghan economic output.

From a continental perspective, 93.6% of Afghan exports by value were delivered to other Asian countries. European importers bought 5.6% of Afghanistan’s total shipments trailed by 0.6% sent to North American customers.

Given Afghanistan’s population of 33.3 million people, its total $421.1 million in 2016 exports translates to roughly $15 for every resident in that country.

Trading Economics projects Afghanistan’s unemployment rate to be a formidable 35% as of second-quarter 2017.

Afghanistan’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Afghan global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Afghanistan. At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Afghanistan’s number one export is grapes.

  1. Fruits, nuts: US$188 million (44.7% of total exports)
  2. Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $70.7 million (16.8%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $35.6 million (8.4%)
  4. Spices, coffee: $28.3 million (6.7%)
  5. Vegetables: $19.9 million (4.7%)
  6. Oil seeds: $10.9 million (2.6%)
  7. Textile floor coverings: $8.6 million (2%)
  8. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $5.3 million (1.3%)
  9. Furskins, artificial fur: $4.2 million (1%)
  10. Electrical machinery, equipment: $4.1 million (1%)

Gems and precious metals was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up from just $1,000 in 2009 led by soaring international sales of precious stones and gold.

In second place for improving export sales was spices and coffee which was up by 311% led by cumin, kirabia, caraway and saffron.

Afghan gums, resins and other vegetable saps posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 133.2%.

The leading decliners among the top 10 Afghan export categories were textile floor coverings (down by -87.3%) and oil seeds (down by -73.3%).


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 is 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.

  1. Fruits, nuts: US$186.9 million (Down by -7.1% since 2009)
  2. Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $70 million (Up by 131%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $27.5 million (Down by -778.5%)
  4. Spices, coffee: $17.8 million (Down by -836.5%)
  5. Vegetables: $13.9 million (Up by 444.3%)
  6. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $5.2 million (Down by -12%)
  7. Furskins, artificial fur: $4.2 million (No change)
  8. Wool: $3 million (Down by -62%)
  9. Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $1.8 million (Up by 1,274%)
  10. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $718,000 (Up by 38.1%)

Afghanistan has 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 -$2.9 billion trade deficit for 2016.

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.

  1. Vehicles : -US$699.2 million (Up by 30.2% since 2009)
  2. Milling products, malt, starches: -$329.8 million (Down by -8.4%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$239.3 million (Up by 87.3%)
  4. Machinery including computers: -$209.3 million (Up by 120.8%)
  5. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$159.8 million (No change)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: -$154.7 million (Up by 829.7%)
  7. Mineral fuels including oil: -$138.7 million (Down by -82.4%)
  8. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$131.3 million (Up by 211.1%)
  9. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$96.5 million (Up by 1,763%)
  10. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$89.3 million (Up by 1,269%)

Afghanistan has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the vehicles category, particularly for tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles.


Afghan Export Companies

Not one Afghan corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000 for 2016.

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)

Afghanistan’s capital city is Kabul.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Pakistan’s Top Trading Partners, Top Almonds Exporters by Country and Capital Facts for Kabul, Afghanistan

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 15, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on May 15, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on May 15, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 15, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Afghanistan. Accessed on May 15, 2017

Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 15, 2017