Iceland’s Top 10 Exports

Iceland's flag


A Nordic island nation east of Greenland in the North Atlantic ocean, Iceland shipped US$5.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 10.2% jump since 2014 and a 14% increase from 2017 to 2018.

From a continental perspective, 81.1% of Icelandic exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 9% were sold to North American importers. Iceland shipped another 6.9% worth of goods to Asia. Smaller percentages went to customers in Africa (1.6%), Latin America (0.6%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and 0.4% to importers in Oceania led by Australia.

Given Iceland’s population of 343,518 people, its total $5.6 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $16,000 for every resident in the Nordic island country.

In macroeconomic terms, Iceland’s total exported goods represent 29.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($19.5 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 29.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 38.2% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Iceland’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Iceland also provided $6.5 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 33.3% 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. Iceland’s unemployment rate was 4.7% at May 2019 up from 3.1% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

Iceland’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Icelandic global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Iceland.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Iceland’s most valuable exported products are unwrought aluminum (31.6%) followed by fish fillets (17.1%), frozen and fresh whole fish (10.5%), dried, salted and smoked fish (5.8%), inedible meal flour (3.8%), aluminum bars or rods (3.4%), aluminum wire (3.3%), iron ferroalloys (3.1%) then processed petroleum oils (2%).

  1. Aluminum: US$2.2 billion (40.2% of total exports)
  2. Fish: $1.9 billion (34.4%)
  3. Food industry waste, animal fodder: $217.4 million (3.9%)
  4. Iron, steel: $201.5 million (3.6%)
  5. Meat/seafood preparations: $131.5 million (2.4%)
  6. Machinery including computers: $126.9 million (2.3%)
  7. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $125.6 million (2.3%)
  8. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $112.2 million (2%)
  9. Mineral fuels including oil: $110 million (2%)
  10. Electrical machinery, equipment: $51.6 million (0.9%)

Iceland’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, accounting for 94% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Electrical machinery and equipment was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 63% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving sales was Iceland’s iron and steel exports which gained 38.9%.

Icelandic shipments of meat and seafood preparations posted the third-fastest uptick via a 26.3% improvement.

Optical, technical, medical apparatus was the sole decliner among Iceland’s top export categories.


The following types of Icelandic 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. Aluminum: US$2.1 billion (Up by 12% since 2017)
  2. Fish: $1.8 billion (Up by 16.6%)
  3. Iron, steel: $141.7 million (Up by 44.9%)
  4. Food industry waste, animal fodder: $140.1 million (Up by 27.7%)
  5. Meat/seafood preparations: $120.6 million (Up by 27.5%)
  6. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $72.4 million (Up by 17.5%)
  7. Meat: $9.5 million (Up by 48%)
  8. Live animals: $7.8 million (Up by 16.6%)
  9. Oil seeds: $5 million (Up by 425%)
  10. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $4 million (Down by -3.1%)

Iceland has highly positive net exports in the international trade of unrefined aluminum. In turn, these cashflows indicate Iceland’s strong competitive advantages under the aluminum product category.


Overall, Iceland incurred a -$2.1 billion trade deficit for 2018 up a tiny 0.3% from one year earlier.

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

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1 billion (Up by 40.1% since 2017)
  2. Inorganic chemicals: -$887.3 million (Up by 40.3%)
  3. Vehicles: -$804.5 million (Down by -12.2%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$762.7 million (Up by 2.7%)
  5. Machinery including computers: -$639.3 million (Up by 10.5%)
  6. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$224.1 million (Up by 7.6%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$195.2 million (Up by 155.6%)
  8. Pharmaceuticals: -$168.9 million (Up by 21.6%)
  9. Plastics, plastic articles: -$162.1 million (Up by 4.3%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: -$143.5 million (Down by -30.1%)

Iceland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for refined petroleum oils, coal, petroleum coke and gases under the mineral fuels-related category.


Icelandic Export Companies

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

Wikipedia lists export-related companies from Iceland. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Arctic Trucks (commercial vehicles)
  • Carbon Recycling International (methanol)
  • Egill Skallagrímsson Brewery (alcoholic beverages)
  • HB Grandi (fishery)
  • Nói Síríus (chocolates)
  • Promens (packaging, plastics)
  • Sláturfélag Suðurlands (food producer co-op)


Iceland’s capital city is Reykjavik.

See also Denmark’s Top Trading Partners, Frozen Fish Exports by Country and Capital Facts for Reykjavik, Iceland

Research Sources:
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 4, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 3, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 4, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 4, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 3, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 3, 2019

Wikipedia, Iceland. Accessed on February 4, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Iceland. Accessed on February 4, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 3, 2019