The Republic of Bulgaria shipped US$33.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019, expanding by 29.2% since 2015 but down by -0.03% from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Bulgarian lev appreciated by 1% against the US dollar since 2015 but declined by -5.4% from 2018 to 2019. Bulgaria’s weaker local currency since 2018 makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers during 2019.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 64.3% of products exported from Bulgaria were bought by importers in: Germany (14.8% of the global total), Romania (8.7%), Italy (7.4%), Turkey (7.2%), Greece (6.8%), France (3.8%), Belgium (2.9%), China (2.7%), Spain (also 2.7%), Netherlands (2.5%), Czech Republic (2.4%) and United Kingdom (also 2.4%).
From a continental perspective, 74.5% of Bulgaria’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 15.7% were sold to importers in Asia. Bulgaria shipped another 4% worth of goods to Africa. Smaller percentages went to North America (2.5%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.4%) then Oceania led by Australia (0.2%).
Given Bulgaria’s population of 7 million people, its total $33.3 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $4,800 for every resident in the Southeast European nation.
Bulgaria’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Bulgarian global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Bulgaria.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$3.7 billion (11% of total exports)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $3.1 billion (9.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $2.8 billion (8.4%)
- Copper: $2.4 billion (7.1%)
- Cereals: $1.5 billion (4.6%)
- Vehicles: $1.2 billion (3.5%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $1.1 billion (3.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1 billion (3.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $898 million (2.7%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $832.9 million (2.5%)
Bulgaria’s top 10 exports accounted for 55.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Ores, slag and ash was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 30.4% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was cereals via a 24.5% gain. Bulgaria’s shipments of vehicles posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 15%.
The leading decliner among Bulgaria’s top 10 export categories was copper thanks to a -19.1% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code, Bulgaria’s most valuable export products are refined petroleum oils (7.4% of total). Following that is medication mixes in dosage (3.1%), refined copper (3%), wheat (2.8%), unrefined copper (2.3%), precious metal ores and concentrates (1.8%), insulated wire or cable (1.7%), electric circuit parts, fuses or switches (1.6%) corn (1.4%), then biodiesel (1.3%).
The following types of Bulgarian 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.
- Copper: US$1.7 billion (Down by -20.8% since 2018)
- Cereals: $1.4 billion (Up by 24.7%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $528.3 million (Down by -10.3%)
- Arms, ammunition: $425.6 million (Reversing a -$59,000 deficit)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $371.3 million (Down by -11%)
- Oil seeds: $315.7 million (Down by -25.2%)
- Glass: $287 million (Up by 1.1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $268.2 million (Down by -27%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $223.3 million (Down by -6.3%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $177.9 million (Down by -12.3%)
Bulgaria has highly positive net exports in the international trade of copper. In turn, these cashflows indicate Bulgaria’s strong competitive advantages under the copper product category.
Bulgaria incurred an overall trade deficit of -$3.9 billion during 2019, down -16.5% from -$4.6 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Bulgaria that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Bulgaria’s goods trail Bulgarian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$2 billion (Down by -7% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$1.5 billion (Down by -13.2%)
- Machinery including computers: -$948.7 million (Down by -19.1%)
- Iron, steel: -$670.7 million (Up by 4.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$624.3 million (Down by -13.6%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$606.1 million (Down by -59.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$476.6 million (Down by -14%)
- Meat: -$301.7 million (Up by 42.1%)
- Paper, paper items: -$236.4 million (Down by -17.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$232.2 million (Reversing a $299.3 million surplus)
Bulgaria has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related goods, notably crude oil, petroleum gas and coal.
Bulgarian Export Companies
Not one Bulgarian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists companies from Bulgaria including international trade players. Selected examples are shown below:
- Armimex (weapons, ammunition)
- Astika Brewery (beer)
- Bulgartabac (cigarettes)
- Chimimport (chemicals)
- Kremikovtzi AD (cast iron, steel)
- LUKOIL Neftochim Burgas (petrochemical products)
- Maxeurope (bicycles, childcare products)
- Navibulgar (shipping company)
- Sofia Mel (bread)
- Vitta Foods (frozen pastry products)
In macroeconomic terms, Bulgaria’s total exported goods represent 19.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($171.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 20.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 20.5% for 2018. This suggests a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Bulgaria’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Bulgaria’s average unemployment rate was 4.9% for 2019 down from 5.3% one year earlier, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Bulgaria’s capital city is Sofia.
See also Bulgaria’s Top Trading Partners and Top EU Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Europe: Bulgaria. Accessed on March 26, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 26, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 26, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 26, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 26, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 26, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 26, 2020
Wikipedia, Bulgaria. Accessed on March 26, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Bulgaria. Accessed on March 26, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 26, 2020