Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports

Nigerian flag

Nigerian flag (

A Western African nation surrounded by Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, the Federal Republic of Nigeria shipped US$52.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -46.7% drop since 2014 but a 29.9% uptick from 2017 to 2018.

From a continental perspective, approaching one half (43.9%) of Nigerian exports were sent to European countries while 27.7% worth was destined for Asia. Another 13.2% was delivered to North America, 9.2% went to Africa, 4.9% arrived in Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, with 0.4% shipped to Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Nigeria’s exported goods plus services represent 11.9% of total Nigerian economic output or Gross Domestic Product. That percentage may include re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

Given Nigeria’s population of 203.5 million people, the total $52.9 billion in 2018 Nigerian exports translates to roughly $260 for every person in the West African nation.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate was an estimated 23.1% at September 2018, up from 18.8% one year earlier per Trading Economics.

Nigeria’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

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

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$49.8 billion (94.1% of total exports)
  2. Ships, boats: $1.3 billion (2.4%)
  3. Cocoa: $317.5 million (0.6%)
  4. Oil seeds: $274.6 million (0.5%)
  5. Fruits, nuts: $189.3 million (0.4%)
  6. Fertilizers: $169.2 million (0.3%)
  7. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $97.2 million (0.2%)
  8. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $93.4 million (0.2%)
  9. Aluminum: $74.2 million (0.1%)
  10. Plastics, plastic articles: $71.4 million (0.1%)

Nigeria’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated accounting for 98.9% of the overall value of the country’s global shipments.

Among the top 10 Nigerian exports above, the ships and boats category showed the greatest increase from 2017 to 2018 via a 400% uptick.

Exported fruits and nuts gained 148.7%. Aluminum exported from Nigeria appreciated by 141.7% followed by Nigeria’s exported oil seeds up by 51.8%.

Two top export categories didn’t fare as well. Nigeria’s global sales of plastics and articles made from plastic fell -8.6% year over year. Shipped tobacco and manufactured substitutes slid in value by -5%.

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Nigeria’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.


Overall, Nigeria achieved a $16.5 billion trade surplus during 2018 up from $11.8 billion in black ink one year earlier.

The following types of Nigerian 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 reflect 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$39 billion (Up by 25.9% since 2017)
  2. Cocoa: $302 million (Up by 34.2%)
  3. Oil seeds: $248.1 million (Up by 45.3%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: $149 million (Up by 367.4%)
  5. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $73.4 million (Up by 53.4%)
  6. Lead: $43.4 million (Up by 85.8%)
  7. Ores, slag, ash: $28.8 million (Up by 455%)
  8. Fertilizers: $20.5 million (Reversing a -$64.3 million deficit)
  9. Feathers, artificial flowers, hair: $8.9 million (Up by 34.1%)
  10. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $7.4 million (Up by 3.5%)

Nigeria has highly positive net exports particularly in the international trade of crude oil and petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Nigeria’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil category.


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

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$5.1 billion (Up by 31.8% since 2017)
  2. Vehicles: -$2.24 billion (Up by 51.8%)
  3. Ships, boats: -$2.15 billion (Reversing a $120.1 million surplus)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$2.1 billion (Up by 19.2%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.3 billion (Up by 4.6%)
  6. Cereals: -$1.2 billion (Down by -15.7%)
  7. Articles of iron or steel: -$681.8 million (Up by 0.7%)
  8. Fish: -$641.5 million (Down by -0.8%)
  9. Other chemical goods: -$599 million (Down by -5.3%)
  10. Iron, steel: -$588.6 million (Up by 40.3%)

Nigeria has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category.


Nigerian Export Companies

Five Nigerian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 including three regional banks, an insurance conglomerate and a construction materials firm.

  • Dangote Cement (construction materials)
  • Equity Assurance (financial institution)
  • FBN Holdings (regional bank)
  • Guaranty Trust Bank (regional bank)
  • Zenith Bank (regional bank)

Wikipedia also lists exporters from Nigeria. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Julius Berger Nigeria (construction materials)
  • Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (oil, gas)
  • Oando (oil, gas)
  • ROCAD Construction Limited (oil, gas)
  • Shell Nigeria (oil, gas)


Searchable List of Nigeria’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, Nigeria’s top export products are crude oil and, to a lesser extent, petroleum gases, tugboats and pusher craft, cocoa beans, oils seeds then breaker vessels.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Nigeria during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankNigeria's Export Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Crude oil$43.6 billion+32.1%
2Petroleum gases$5.9 billion+3.6%
3Tugboats, pusher craft$1 billionno 2017 data
4Cocoa beans$256.1 million+43.3%
5Oil seeds$247.7 million+98.6%
6Breaker vessels$219.9 million+64.3%
7Coconuts, Brazil nuts, cashews$186.3 million+144.8%
8Nitrogenous fertilizers$169.2 million+12.9%
9Processed petroleum oils$156.6 million-6.2%
10Electrical energy$112 million+8.2%
11Cigars/cigarellos, cigarettes$97.1 million-5.2%
12Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)$75.3 million-56%
13Aluminum (unwrought)$66.1 million+224%
14Further-prepared leather$61.7 million+54.5%
15Hydraulic cements$61.5 million+16.2%
16Ethylene polymers$56.4 million+16.2%
17Cocoa butter, fat, oil$46.8 million+4.7%
18Crustaceans (including lobsters)$42.7 million-5.8%
19Natural rubber$41.8 million-24.5%
20Lead (unwrought)$41 million+76.7%
21Pasta, couscous$25.4 million+9.8%
22Sheep/lamb leather$23.2 million+17%
23Zinc ores, concentrates$22.2 million+395.4%
24Aircraft, spacecraft$19.3 millionno 2017 data
25Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks$19.1 million+131.4%
26Soya beans$16.8 million-34.8%
27Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$15.2 million+23.9%
28Wigs, false beards, eyelashes$14.1 million+11.2%
29Miscellaneous machinery$13.8 millionno 2017 data
30Fixed vegetable fats/oils$13.3 million+19,983%
31Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$13.2 million+2.2%
32Other food preparations$11.9 million+92.2%
33Refined copper, unwrought alloys$11.9 million+2,936%
34Ginger, saffron, thyme, bay leaves, curry$11 million+41.8%
35Cruise/cargo ships, barges$10.8 million-90.3%
36Lead ores, concentrates$10 million+545.5%
37Beet-pulp, brew/distilling waste$9.1 millionno 2017 data
38Cocoa paste$8.7 million+9.9%
39Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)$8.4 million-6.1%
40Goat/kidskin leather$8.3 million+1.8%
41Aluminum containers$7.9 million-21.8%
42#N/A$7 million+72.1%
43#N/A$6.8 million-9.4%
44Other iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$6.4 million+62.6%
45Soups, broths$6.2 million-1.6%
46Organic surface-active goods, soap$6.2 million+122.5%
47Stainless steel bars, rods$6 millionno 2017 data
48Bottles, flasks, jars, pots$6 million+9.3%
49Pulley tackle, hoists$5.8 millionno 2017 data
50Other organic cleaning preparations$5.1 million-30.9%
51Chemical industry products/residuals$4.8 million+31,847%
52Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$4.8 million+234.8%
53Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$4.5 million+45.3%
54Particle board, other ligneous materials$4.1 million+119.1%
55Coconut/palm/babassu oil$4 million-39.5%
56Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues$3.9 million-68.7%
57Wood charcoal$3.8 million-58.8%
58Cocoa shells, husks, skins, waste$3.5 million-39.3%
59Medicinal plants$3.5 million+647.4%
60Cotton (uncarded, uncombed)$3.4 million+8.8%
61Yarn (85%+ cotton)$3.4 million+59.6%
62Soya-bean oil$3.2 millionno 2017 data
63Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$3.2 million+515.4%
64Oil seed flour/meal$3.1 million-87.1%
65Household/sanitary rolls$3 million+43.9%
66Malt beer$3 million-50.5%
67Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)$2.6 millionno 2017 data
68Buttermilk, yogurt$2.6 million+69.1%
69Rough wood$2.6 million-63.2%
70Footwear (rubber or plastic)$2.6 million-19.1%
71Aircraft parts$2.4 millionno 2017 data
72Sauces, mixed condiments, seasonings$2.3 million+98.3%
73Oral/dental hygiene preparations$2.3 million-5%
74Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$2.3 million-6.8%
75Niobium/zirconium ores, concentrates$2.1 million+9.1%
76Miscellaneous tin articles$2 million+51.2%
77Unroasted ground-nuts$1.9 million-67.3%
78Bran, other residues$1.9 million-85.6%
79Propylene/olefin polymers$1.8 million+26.9%
80Iron or non-alloy steel angles, shapes, sections$1.8 million+44.3%
81Sawn wood$1.8 million+233.5%
82Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$1.7 million-33.2%
83Live fish$1.7 millionno 2017 data
84Lead plates, sheets, strip, foil, powders$1.7 million+727.8%
85Manganese ores, concentrates$1.6 million+511.2%
86Pumice stone, emery, corundum, garnet$1.6 millionno 2017 data
87Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)$1.6 million+2.5%
88Packing sacks, bags$1.5 million-86%
89Miscellaneous iron/non-alloy steel ingots$1.5 millionno 2017 data
90Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$1.4 million+2,419%
91Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust$1.4 millionno 2017 data
92Natural gums, resins, balsams$1.3 million+48.6%
93Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)$1.3 million+7.7%
94#N/A$1.3 million+4.5%
95Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$1.2 million+1,417%
96Tobacco-making machinery$1.1 millionno 2017 data
97Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$1.1 million-25.7%
98Tin ores, concentrates$1 million+2,128%
99Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$1 million+22.1%
100Cocoa powder (no added sugar)$991+7.3%
101Fruit and vegetable juices$967-35.4%
102Lead waste, scrap$957no 2017 data
103Plant foliage, branches, other parts$928no 2017 data
104Electric generating sets, converters$917-61%
105Onions, garlic, leeks$850+94.1%
106Synthetic organic coloring$824no 2017 data
107Railway/tram wood cross-ties$801-89.7%
108Plastics waste, scrap$770+647.6%
109Perfumes, toilet waters$758+365%
110Miscellaneous machine electrical parts$728-52.3%
111Stoppers, caps, lids, crown corks$720-29.3%
112Hay, alfalfa, clover$701no 2017 data
113Wood marquetry, caskets, cases$631no 2017 data
114Starches, inulin$628-26.8%
115Human hair, wool$613no 2017 data
116Sowing seeds, fruits, spores$583+29,050%
117Vinyl chloride polymers$581no 2017 data
118Carrots, turnips, beetroot, radishes$559+230.8%
119Aquatic invertebrates not crustaceans/molluscs$558no 2017 data
120Sorghum grain$549no 2017 data
121Textile coverings/carpets$548no 2017 data
122Non-sublimed sulphur$546no 2017 data
123Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$542-59.2%
124Float/ground/polished glass in sheets$532+66.8%
125Coal, solid fuels made from coal$526+484.4%
126Hair preparations$507+77.3%
127Paper labels$505+2,096%
128Flour, meal or powder of peas/beans/lentils$496+77.8%
129Medication mixes in dosage$495-10.5%
130Uncombed synthetic staple fibers for spinning$486-16.1%
131Ball-point pens, felt-tipped markers, fountain pens$376+116.1%
132Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$364+225%
133Granite/basalt/sandstone monument, building stone$360+471.4%
134Shaped wood$359-85.5%
135Dried shelled vegetables$351+1,154%
136Bones, horn-cores, powder/waste$336+150.7%
137Sort/screen/washing machinery$336no 2017 data
138Ammonia$328no 2017 data
139Tea (including flavored)$327+1,535%
140Synthetic filament yarn$319+215.8%
141Copper waste, scrap$315-77.5%
142Solid-form sugars, fructose, glucose, lactose$313+943.3%
144Cereal straws, husks$287no 2017 data
145Miscellaneous animal products$279+187.6%
146Paper containers, cellulose wadding$262+670.6%
147Vegetable saps, extracts$255+3,088%
148Natural sands$254-19.6%
149Residual lyes from wood pulp$245-42.2%
150Other coloring matter, luminophores$232-20.5%
151Printing machinery$213no 2017 data
152Mica, mica waste$209+221.5%
153Personal toilet/shaving preparations, deodorants$200-27%
154Weighing/counting/checking machines$197no 2017 data
155Dried fruit$195no 2017 data
156Automobile parts/accessories$186+9.4%
157Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$183+369.2%
158Miscellaneous nuts$182+1,555%
159Pipe/chewing/snuff tobaccos$180no 2017 data
160Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$180-99.1%
161Cyclic hydrocarbons$177no 2017 data
162Miscellaneous rawhides, skins$176no 2017 data
163Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$175-58.7%
164Palm oil$174-93.4%
165Organo-sulphur compounds$173no 2017 data
166Yarn (not sewing thread) for retail sale$173no 2017 data
167Mate$166no 2017 data
168Wheat$159no 2017 data
169Vermiculite, perlite, other mineral substances$158+485.2%
170Miscellaneous/adhesive paper$158+5,167%
171Ethyl alcohol$156no 2017 data
172Lead oxides, red/orange lead$154+97.4%
173Fluorine/chlorine/bromine/iodine$151no 2017 data
174Cobalt ores, concentrates$142+115.2%
175Miscellaneous vegetable products$140no 2017 data
176Safes, strongboxes, lockers$138no 2017 data
177Styrene polymers$135no 2017 data
178Registers, notebooks, letter pads$134+97.1%
179Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$128no 2017 data
180Vegetable/bees/insect waxes$128no 2017 data
181Precious metal compounds$127no 2017 data
182Electric motor parts$127no 2017 data
183Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)$126no 2017 data
184Copper ores, concentrates$125+145.1%
185Aluminum bars/rods$125no 2017 data
186Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$122-21.8%
187Metal-containing ash, residues$122no 2017 data
188Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$122-19.7%
189Densified wood in blocks/plates/strips$117-90%
190Polyamides$116no 2017 data
191Kaolinic clays$116+14.9%
192Essential oils$114no 2017 data
193Zinc dust, powders, flakes$114-83.5%
195Pig iron$105no 2017 data
196Tufted carpets/textile floor coverings$104-46.9%
197Mufflers, nozzles, plugs, tubes, pipes$102no 2017 data
198Non-granulated slag, dross$100no 2017 data
199Printed books, brochures$99no 2017 data
200Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$98+988.9%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$52.885 billion or 99.9% by value for all products exported from Nigeria during 2018.

See also Top African Export Countries, Nigeria’s Top 10 Imports and Nigeria’s Top Trading Partners

Research Sources:
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 27, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 27, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 27, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 27, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Nigeria. Accessed on March 27, 2019

Wikipedia, Nigeria. Accessed on March 27, 2019