Iran’s Top 10 Exports

Natanz City artwork

Natanz City decoration

Iran shipped US$45.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, down by -45.2% since 2010 one year after the Great Recession kicked in but up by 11.4% from 2015 to 2016.

Iran’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, accounting for 96.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Iran’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $1.535 trillion as of April 2017 (on a purchasing power parity basis). Therefore, exports represent an estimated 3% of total Iranian economic output. Trade embargoes imposed against Iran’s government may partially account for such a low percentage.

Given Iran’s population of 82.8 million people, its total $45.9 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $550 for every resident in that country.

Iran’s unemployment rate was 12.7% as of 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 2016. 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 number 1 export product is crude oil followed by primarily ethylene polymers then refined petroleum oils.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$34.4 billion (75% of total exports)
  2. Plastics, plastic articles: $2.8 billion (6.2%)
  3. Organic chemicals: $1.8 billion (3.9%)
  4. Ores, slag, ash: $1.6 billion (3.5%)
  5. Fruits, nuts: $1 billion (2.2%)
  6. Iron, steel: $960.5 million (2.1%)
  7. Copper: $435.5 million (0.9%)
  8. Fertilizers: $425.6 million (0.9%)
  9. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $408.2 million (0.9%)
  10. Inorganic chemicals: $272.7 million (0.6%)

Iranian fertilizers were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 51.8% over the 6-year period starting in 2010.

In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel which was up by 50.5%. The ores, slag and ash category expanded in value by 28.2% led by copper, chromium, lead and zinc ores and concentrates.

Iranian plastics was the only other top 10 category to rise in value over the 6-year period, up by 0.7%.

Leading the decliners was the salt, sulphur, stone and cement category via its -49.4% drop. Exports of mineral fuels including oil backtracked by -45%.


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$34.2 billion (Down by -44.1% since 2009)
  2. Ores, slag, ash: $1.6 billion (Up by 35.6%)
  3. Plastics, plastic articles: $973.1 million (Up by 46.9%)
  4. Organic chemicals: $905.7 million (Down by -50.4%)
  5. Fruits, nuts: $876.3 million (Down by -49.6%)
  6. Copper: $378.4 million (Down by -27.5%)
  7. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $356 million (Down by -48.6%)
  8. Fertilizers: $318.8 million (Down by -237.3%)
  9. Zinc: $133.7 million (Up by 21.1%)
  10. Textile floor coverings: $96.4 million (Down by -88.7%)

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


Overall, Iran incurred a -$139.6 million trade deficit during 2016 reversing a $29.1 billion surplus for 2010.

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$7.6 billion (Down by -30.9% since 2009)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$4.4 billion (Up by 58.8%)
  3. Vehicles : -$4.2 billion (Up by 122.2%)
  4. Cereals: -$2 billion (Down by -6.7%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$1.8 billion (Up by 30.4%)
  6. Gems, precious metals: -$1.8 billion (Up by 632.1%)
  7. Pharmaceuticals: -$1.2 billion (Up by 7.8%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: -$1.2 billion (Down by -19.8%)
  9. Paper, paper items: -$1 billion (Down by -8.4%)
  10. Oil seeds: -$980 million (Up by 85.7%)

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 Grapes Exports by Country

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 2, 2017

The World Factbook, Middle East: Iran, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 2, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, Accessed on April 25, 2017

Trading Economics list of jobless rate by country. Accessed on April 25, 2017

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on April 25, 2017