A landlocked nation in southeastern Europe that has secure access to the Black Sea via the international waterway Danube, the Republic of Serbia shipped US$19.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 46.1% gain since 2015 and a 1.6% uptick from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Serbian dinar appreciated by 3.3% against the US dollar since 2015 but declined by -5.1% from 2018 to 2019. Serbia’s weaker local currency since 2018 makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers during 2019.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 66.9% of products exported from Serbia were bought by importers in: Germany (12.7% of the global total), Italy (10.1%), Bosnia/Herzegovina (7.6%), Romania (5.8%), Russia (5%), Montenegro (4.5%), Hungary (4.2%), North Macedonia (3.8%), Czech Republic (3.3%), Slovenia (3.3%), Bulgaria (also 3.3%) and Austria (3.2%).
Given that Serbia is landlocked, it will come as no surprise that Serbian exports are highly concentrated with 90.6% arriving in fellow European countries. Smaller percentages go to Asia (6%), North America (1.9%), Africa (1.2%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.2%), and Oceania led by Australia (0.1%).
Given Serbia’s population of 7 million people, its total $19.5 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $2,800 for every resident in the southeastern European country.
Serbia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Serbian global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Serbia.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$3 billion (15.2% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $1.5 billion (7.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $959.2 million (4.9%)
- Vehicles: $956.6 million (4.9%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $956.3 million (4.9%)
- Iron, steel: $912.4 million (4.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $731.4 million (3.7%)
- Copper: $689.7 million (3.5%)
- Fruits, nuts: $607.5 million (3.1%)
- Cereals: $592.5 million (3%)
Serbia’s top 10 exports accounted for 55.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Cereals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 20.2% from 2018 to 2019 and propelled by higher international sales of corn. Close behind in second place for improving export sales was furniture, bedding, lighting, signs and prefabricate buildings via that category’s 19.3% gain. Serbia’s shipments of electrical machinery and equipment posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 14.7%.
Three of the top 10 export categories declined year over year: vehicles (down -25%), iron and steel (down -11.9%) then plastics including items made from plastic (down -0.6%).
br>At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Serbia’s most valuable exported good is insulated wire and cable. In second place are exported new rubber tires trailed by cars, hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products, corn, electric motors and generators, refined copper then frozen fruits and nuts, seats and chairs and refined petroleum oils.
The following types of Serbian 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.
- Cereals: US$566.6 million (Up by 21.3% since 2018)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $543.3 million (Down by -0.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $476.7 million (Up by 229.1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $425.5 million (Up by 20.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $373.4 million (Up by 3%)
- Copper: $322.7 million (Up by 15.2%)
- Iron, steel: $269.2 million (Down by -17%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $242.3 million (Down by -15.1%)
- Footwear: $190.3 million (Down by -12.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $168.1 million (Up by 66.9%)
Serbia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of corn and to a much lesser extent wheat and barley. In turn, these cashflows indicate Serbia’s strong competitive advantages under the cereals category.
Serbia incurred a -$7 billion trade deficit in 2019, up 5.2% from the -$6.6 billion in red ink for 2018.
Below are exports from Serbia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Serbia’s goods trail Serbian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$2.2 billion (Down by -8.1% since 2018)
- Machinery including computers: -$816.1 million (Down by -12.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$657.3 million (Up by 17.6%)
- Vehicles: -$653.7 million (Up by 13.6%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$568.8 million (Up by 60.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$522.8 million (Up by 12.5%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$409.2 million (Up by 388.1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$387.9 million (Up by 352.8%)
- Other chemical goods: -$234.7 million (Down by -11.1%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: -$183.2 million (Down by -4.1%)
Serbia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for products related to mineral fuels notably petroleum oils, petroleum gases and coke or semi-coke.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Serbia’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Serbia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Serbian Export Companies
Given that Serbia is an emerging economy, it should come as no surprise that not one Serbian corporation appears on the Forbes Global 2000 list.
Wikipedia does outline some smaller-scale Serbian export companies. Selected examples are shown below.
- Estonia Piano Factory (pianos)
- Liviko (vodka, other alcoholic beverages)
- Narva Oil Plant (shale oil)
- Rakvere Lihakombinaat (meat products)
- Rexer Ltd (automobiles)
- Saku Brewery (beer, cider, soft drinks, water)
- Tartu Mill AS (grains)
- Tondi Elektroonika (hearing aids)
In macroeconomic terms, Serbia’s total exported goods represent 15.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($129.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 15.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 15.7% for 2018. This suggests a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Serbia’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Serbia’s average unemployment rate was 13.122% for 2019 down from 13.273% one year earlier, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Serbia’s capital city is Belgrade.
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Europe: Serbia. Accessed on April 1, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 1, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on April 1, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 1, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 1, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 1, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on April 1, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Serbia. Accessed on April 1, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on April 1, 2020
Wikipedia, Serbia. Accessed on April 1, 2020