Afghanistan’s Top 10 Exports

Afghan flag


A landlocked nation in south-central Asia, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan shipped an estimated US$920.1 million worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a 98.3% increase since 2013 and a 54.3% gain from 2016 to 2017.

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, the bulk of Afghan exports (over 90% by value) were delivered to fellow Asian countries.

Given Afghanistan’s population of 34.1 million people, its total $920.1 million in 2017 exports translates to roughly $30 for every resident in the economically depressed Asian country.

Afghanistan’s unemployment rate was 8.8% in 2017 according to Trading Economics.

Afghanistan’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Afghan global shipments during 2017, 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.

Drilling down to the more detailed 4-digit HTS four-digit codes, Afghanistan’s most valuable exported product is grapes ($146.2 million), natural gums and resins ($102 million), fresh or dried figs ($101.4 million) coal ($68.8 million), miscellaneous nuts ($60.5 million) then uncombed cotton ($46.3 million).

  1. Fruits, nuts: US$399.1 million (43.4% of total exports)
  2. Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $102 million (11.1%)
  3. Vegetables: $83.4 million (9.1%)
  4. Mineral fuels including oil: $69 million (7.5%)
  5. Cotton: $46.8 million (5.1%)
  6. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $46.1 million (5%)
  7. Coffee, tea, spices: $42.3 million (4.6%)
  8. Iron, steel: $39.9 million (4.3%)
  9. Oil seeds: $16.2 million (1.8%)
  10. Textile floor coverings: $8.9 million (1%)

Afghanistan’s top 10 exports accounted for 92.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Cotton was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 818% from 2016 to 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was salt, sulphur, stone and cement which rose 607%.

Afghan shipments of mineral fuels-related products posted the third-fastest gain in value via a 149.2% uptick caused mainly by Afghanistan’s higher global sales of coal.

Led by tomatoes, dried shelled beans and onions, vegetables represent the fourth fastest-growing exported product category.

There were two leading decliners among the top 10 Afghan export categories specifically were textile floor coverings (down by -77.3%) and oil seeds (down by -75.1%).


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.

  1. Fruits, nuts: US$321.6 million (Up by 48.7% since 2016)
  2. Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $101.2 million (Up by 17.8%)
  3. Cotton: $43 million (Reversing a -$2.6 million deficit)
  4. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $8.3 million (Down by -48%)
  5. Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $5.4 million (Up by 43.9%)
  6. Wool: $5.1 million (Down by -70.3%)
  7. Furskins, artificial fur: $3.9 million (No 2016 data)
  8. Collector items, art, antiques: $485,000 (No 2016 data)
  9. Ores, slag, ash: $75,000 (Down by -59.9%)
  10. Plaiting products, basketware.wickerwork: $32,000 (No 2016 data)

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 -$4.5 billion trade deficit for 2017, down from -$5.9 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.

  1. Vehicles: -US$810.3 million (Up by 358.8% since 2016)
  2. Milling products, malt, starches: -$422.1 million (Down by -36.8%)
  3. Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$323.4 million (Up by 421.9%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$317.8 million (Up by 37.9%)
  5. Mineral fuels including oil: -$260 million (Down by -73.5%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: -$250.9 million (Up by 388%)
  7. Machinery including computers: -$242.7 million (Down by -24.4%)
  8. Cereals: -$204.9 million (Up by 218.9%)
  9. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$200.2 million (Down by -36.7%)
  10. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$156.3 million (Up by 1,372%)

Afghanistan has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the vehicles category, particularly for tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles, cars, trucks, special purpose vehicles then 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)

Afghanistan’s capital city is Kabul.

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

Research Sources:
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 20, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 20, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 20, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on August 20, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 20, 2018

Wikipedia, Afghanistan. Accessed on August 20, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Afghanistan. Accessed on August 20, 2018