Eritrea’s Top 10 Exports

Eritrea's flag

Eritrea’s flag (courtesy Pixabay)

Exported goods from Eritrea totaled an estimated US$286.5 million in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a -12.4% decrease since 2013 and a -25.6% downturn from 2016 to 2017.

Eritrea is a tiny country located in East Africa, bordered by Sudan to its west, Ethiopia to its south and southwest and Djibouti to its southeast. Northeastern and eastern Eritrea shares a coastline with the Red Sea.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Eritrea’s exported goods plus services represent 11% of total Eritrean economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes a sizable share of re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

Given Eritrea’s population of 5.9 million people, its total $286.5 million in 2017 exports translates to roughly $50 for every resident in the East African country.

Eritrea’s unemployment rate was 6.4% in 2017 according to Trading Economics.

Eritrea’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Eritrean 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 Eritrea.

Drilling down to the more detailed 4-digit HTS codes, Eritrea’s most valuable exported goods are zinc ores and concentrates ($221.9 million), copper ores and concentrates ($37 million) then precious metal ores and concentrates ($18.9 million).

  1. Ores, slag, ash: US$277.8 million (97% of total exports)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $3.1 million (1.1%)
  3. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $1.7 million (0.6%)
  4. Coffee, tea, spices: $942,000 (0.3%)
  5. Cotton: $680,000 (0.24%)
  6. Vegetables: $492,000 (0.17%)
  7. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $214,000 (0.07%)
  8. Electrical machinery, equipment: $196,000 (0.07%)
  9. Fish: $148,000 (0.05%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: $147,000 (0.05%)

Eritrea’s top 10 exports accounted for 99.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Fish was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 174.1% from 2016 to 2017.

In second place for Eritrea’s improving export sales was optical, technical and medical apparatus via its 78.3% gain.

Eritrean exported iron or steel posted the third-fastest gain in value up 47%.

Weighted down by plummeting international sales of gold, the fastest decliner among the top 10 Eritrean exports was the gems and precious metals category which slowed by -96.9%.


The following types of Eritrean 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. Ores, slag, ash: US$277.8 million (Up by 2.2% since 2016)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $3.1 million (Down by -96.9%)
  3. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $1.5 million (Up by 612.5%)
  4. Coffee, tea, spices: $303,000 (Down by -84.4%)
  5. Fish: $112,000 (Up by 111.3%)
  6. Woodpulp: $34,000 (Reversing a -$230,000 deficit)
  7. Copper: $21,000 (Reversing a -$108,000 deficit)
  8. Clocks , watches including parts: $10,000 (Reversing a -$1,000 deficit)
  9. Vegetable plaiting materials: $5,000 (No 2013 data)
  10. Collector items, art, antiques: $4,000 (Reversing a -$144,000 deficit)

Eritrea has highly positive net exports in the international trade of zinc, copper and precious metal ores and concentrates. In turn, these cashflows indicate Eritrea’s strong competitive advantages under the ores, slag and ash product category.


Eritrea incurred a -$19.9 million trade deficit in 2017, reversing a $42.9 million surplus one year earlier.

Below are exports from Eritrea that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Eritrea’s goods trail Eritrean importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Milling products, malt, starches: -US$49.9 million (Up by 91.6% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$46.6 million (Up by 24%)
  3. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$29.2 million (Up by 70.7%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$21.5 million (Down by -49.8%)
  5. Cereal/milk preparations: -$16.6 million (Up by 23.7%)
  6. Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$16.5 million (Down by -28.7%)
  7. Mineral fuels including oil: -$12.7 million (Up by 471.3%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: -$11.5 million (Down by -34.2%)
  9. Vehicles: -$10.5 million (Down by -49.6%)
  10. Rubber, rubber articles: -$8 million (Down by -39.3%)

Eritrea has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for wheat or meslin flour.


Eritrean Export Companies

Not one Eritrean corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.

Wikipedia does list exporters from Eritrea. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Asmara Brewery (lager/stout beer)
  • Golden Star Brewery (beer)
  • Nakfa Corporation (corrugated boxes, sodium silicate)
  • Red Sea Trading Corporation (international trade services)

Eritrea’s capital city is Asmara.

See also Eritrea’s Top 10 Imports, Top African Export Countries and Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 13, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on September 13, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on September 13, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 13, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Eritrea. Accessed on September 13, 2018

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 13, 2018