The Republic of Bulgaria shipped US$33.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018, expanding by 12.8% since 2014 and up by 11.2% from 2017 to 2018.
From a continental perspective, $24.9 billion or 73.8% of Bulgarian exports by value were delivered to fellow European nations while 15.3% were sold to Asian importers. Bulgaria shipped another 3.1% worth of goods to African countries with 2.1% going to North America. Even smaller percentages went to Latin America (under 1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (under 1%) led by Australia.
Given Bulgaria’s population of 7.1 million people, its total $33.2 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $4,700 for every resident in the Southeast European nation.
In macroeconomic terms, Bulgaria’s total exported goods represent 20.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($162.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 20.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 25.1% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Bulgaria’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Bulgaria also provided $162.3 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 6.1% of GDP in PPP. These metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Bulgaria’s unemployment rate was 4% at May 2019 down from 5.7% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Bulgaria’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Bulgarian global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Bulgaria.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$3.6 billion (11% of total exports)
- Copper: $2.9 billion (8.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $2.8 billion (8.4%)
- Machinery including computers: $2.7 billion (8.1%)
- Cereals: $1.2 billion (3.7%)
- Vehicles: $1 billion (3.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $1 billion (3.1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $1 billion (3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $982.6 million (3%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $898.3 million (2.7%)
Bulgaria’s top 10 exports accounted for 55.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Vehicles was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 23.3% in value from 2017 to 2018.
In second place for improving export sales were exported electrical machinery and equipment which rose 14.3%.
Plastics and items made from plastic exported from Bulgaria posted an 18.7% year-over-year gain in value.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code, Bulgaria’s most valuable export products are refined petroleum oils (6.5% of total). Following that is refined copper (3.8%), unrefined copper (3.3%), medication mixes in dosage (2.8%), wheat (2.6%), insulated wire or cable (1.8%), electric circuit parts, fuses or switches (1.4%) and exported sunflower seeds (also 1.4%).
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$2.2 billion (Up by 6.8% since 2017)
- Cereals: $1.1 billion (Up by 25.6%)
- Arms, ammunition: $615.6 million (Reversing a -$59,000 deficit)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $591.9 million (Up by 2.9%)
- Oil seeds: $421.5 million (Down by -7.5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $416.9 million (Up by 8.6%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: $366.2 million (Up by 14%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $296.6 million (Up by 8.8%)
- Glass: $284.4 million (Up by 3.4%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $238.5 million (Up by 14.2%)
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 -$4.7 billion during 2018, up 8% from -$4.4 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$2.2 billion (Down by -6.9% since 2017)
- Vehicles: -$1.8 billion (Up by 16%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$1.5 billion (Up by 11.1%)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.2 billion (Up by 21%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$723.3 million (Up by 4%)
- Iron, steel: -$644.4 million (Up by 15.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$553 million (Up by 17.2%)
- Other chemical goods: -$296.5 million (Down by -8.9%)
- Paper, paper items: -$289.1 million (Up by 17.2%)
- Organic chemicals: -$239.4 million (Up by 11.5%)
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)
Bulgaria’s capital city is Sofia.
See also Bulgaria’s Top Trading Partners and Top EU Export Countries
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 23, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 29, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 23, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 29, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Bulgaria. Accessed on March 23, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 29, 2019