Iran’s Top 10 Exports

Natanz City artwork

Natanz City decoration

Sharing its eastern borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran shipped US$62.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a -32.1% drop since 2013 and a -24.8% decline from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Iran’s exported goods plus services represent 22.5% of total Iranian economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

Given Iran’s population of 82.8 million people, its total $62.5 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $750 for every resident in that country.

Iran’s unemployment rate was 11.9% as of December 2017 down from 12.7% in September 2016, according to Trading Economics.

Iran’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Iranian global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Iran.

At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Iran’s most valuable export product is crude oil followed by primarily ethylene polymers, refined petroleum oils, acyclic alcohols then iron ores and concentrates.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$48.7 billion (77.9% of total exports)
  2. Plastics, plastic articles: $3.3 billion (5.3%)
  3. Ores, slag, ash: $2.2 billion (3.5%)
  4. Organic chemicals: $1.8 billion (2.9%)
  5. Iron, steel: $1.4 billion (2.2%)
  6. Fruits, nuts: $934.8 million (1.5%)
  7. Fertilizers: $681.8 million (1.1%)
  8. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $561.3 million (0.9%)
  9. Copper: $386.2 million (0.6%)
  10. Aluminum: $305.4 million (0.5%)

Iran’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, accounting for 96.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Ores, slag and ash from Iran were the fastest-growing among its top 10 export categories, doubling in value from 2016 to 2017.

The only other top category to appreciate year over year was aluminum, up by 24.9%.

Leading the declining categories were fruits and nuts (down -58.6%), organic chemicals (down -51.3%) and iron or steel (down -44.7%).


Iran earned an overall $11.4 billion trade surplus in 2017, down by -71.7% from the $40.4 billion in black ink for 2016.

The following types of Iranian 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 is 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. Mineral fuels including oil: US$47.9 billion (418.9% of total exports)
    2. Ores, slag, ash: $2.1 billion (18.5%)
    3. Plastics, plastic articles: $1.5 billion (13.1%)
    4. Organic chemicals: $835.8 million (7.3%)
    5. Fruits, nuts: $740.9 million (6.5%)
    6. Fertilizers: $473.6 million (4.1%)
    7. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $471.9 million (4.1%)
    8. Zinc: $295.9 million (2.6%)
    9. Copper: $227.1 million (2%)
    10. Textile floor coverings: $108.9 million (1%)

Iran has highly positive net exports in the international trade of mineral fuels-related products particularly crude oil and, to a lesser extent, refined oils, petroleum gases and petroleum coke. In turn, these cashflows indicate Iran’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuel products-related category.


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

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$8.8 billion (Up by 25% since 2016)
  2. Vehicles: -$5.9 billion (Up by 99.8%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$4.7 billion (Up by 11%)
  4. Cereals: -$2.4 billion (Down by -15.5%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$2 billion (Up by 63.8%)
  6. Articles of iron or steel: -$1.5 billion (Up by 258.8%)
  7. Pharmaceuticals: -$1.2 billion (Down by -7.8%)
  8. Oil seeds: -$1.1 billion (Down by -21.4%)
  9. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$1.1 billion (Up by 31%)
  10. Paper, paper items: -$984.5 million (Up by 8.5%)

Iran has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery including computers.


Iranian Export Companies

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are examples of diverse exporters from Iran:

  • Pars Pak (carpets, other textile floor coverings)
  • Sana T Tejarat Anahita (grapes, raisins)
  • Khadem Trading (cereals, aerated/mineral water)
  • Dezdasht Agro Industry (juice, jams)
  • Omid Nikan (acyclic polyhydric alcohols)
  • Kayson (grinding machines, tubes/pipes/hoses, doors)
  • Dashte Morghab (flour, meal)
  • Celulose Irani (wooden furniture)
  • Bushehr Marine Products (citrus fruit, melons)
  • Axis Global Trading (pistachios)

Iran’s capital city is Tehran.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Top Middle Eastern Export Countries, Iraq’s Top 10 Exports and Iran’s Top 10 Imports

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 14, 2018

International Trade Centre, Trade Map: Iran export data. Accessed on May 14, 2018

The World Factbook, Middle East: Iran, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on May 14, 2018

Trading Economics list of jobless rate by country. Accessed on May 14, 2018

Wikipedia, Iran. Accessed on May 14, 2018

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on May 14, 2018