Zimbabwe’s Top 10 Exports

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A landlocked nation in southern Africa, the Republic of Zimbabwe shipped an estimated US$2.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a -40.9% downturn since 2013 and a -26.9% decrease from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Zimbabwe’s exported goods plus services represent 26.4% of total Zimbabwean 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.

From a continental perspective and using 2016 trade data, $2.6 billion or 93.4% of Zimbabwean exports by value were delivered to other African countries while 4.3% were sold to Asian importers. Zimbabwe shipped another 2.2% worth of goods to Europe.

Given Zimbabwe’s population of 13.8 million people, its total $2.6 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $150 for every resident in that country.

Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate was 5.16% in 2017 according to Trading Economics.

Zimbabwe’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Zimbabwean global shipments during 2017 at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Zimbabwe.

Drilling down to the 4-digit HTS code level, Zimbabwe’s most valuable exported good is unmanufactured tobacco and tobacco waste followed by iron ferro-alloys, diamonds, chromium ores, sugar then fresh or dried citrus fruits.

  1. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: US$993.5 million (48% of total exports)
  2. Iron, steel: $214.9 million (10.4%)
  3. Ores, slag, ash: $179.6 million (8.7%)
  4. Gems, precious metals: $148.2 million (7.2%)
  5. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $77.6 million (3.7%)
  6. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $73.8 million (3.6%)
  7. Fruits, nuts: $61.7 million (3%)
  8. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $43 million (2.1%)
  9. Cotton: $27.7 million (1.3%)
  10. Vegetables: $25.5 million (1.2%)

Zimbabwe’s top 10 exports accounted for 89.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Vegetables was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 865.8% from 2016 to 2017. In second place for Zimbabwe’s improving export sales was the fruits and nuts category via its 240.7% gain, trailed by iron and steel’s 75.4% increase.

The two declining top categories among the top 10 Zimbabwean export categories were gems and precious metals (down -85.5%) due to a precipitous decline in international gold sols, then the ores, slag and ash category (down -43.6%).


The following types of Zimbabwean 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. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: US$960.9 million (Up by 5.4% since 2016)
  2. Ores, slag, ash: $178.3 million (Down by -43.9%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $146.2 million (Down by -85.7%)
  4. Iron, steel: $104.5 million (Up by 1,083%)
  5. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $60.5 million (Up by 63.1%)
  6. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $54.2 million (Up by 75.4%)
  7. Fruits, nuts: $53.3 million (Up by 564.3%)
  8. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $42 million (Up by 50.3%)
  9. Cotton: $20.3 million (Down by -11%)
  10. Coffee, tea, spices: $18.7 million (Up by 19.7%)

Zimbabwe has highly positive net exports in the international trade of tobacco and related goods. In turn, these cashflows indicate Zimbabwe’s strong competitive advantages under the tobacco and manufactured substitutes product category.


Overall Zimbabwe ran a -$1.4 billion deficit during 2017, down by -42.6% from its -$2.4 billion in red ink one year earlier.

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

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$457.8 million (Up by 2.4% since 2016)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$302 million (Up by 18.8%)
  3. Vehicles: -$249.5 million (Down by -25.9%)
  4. Mineral fuels including oil: -$249.5 million (Down by -83.3%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$164.4 million (Down by -7.3%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: -$162.5 million (Down by -18.9%)
  7. Other chemical goods: -$121 million (Up by 17.2%)
  8. Cereals: -$119.4 million (Down by -76.9%)
  9. Fertilizers: -$99.7 million (Up by 8.3%)
  10. Soaps, washing preparations, lubricants, waxes: -$88.3 million (Up by 98.7%)

Zimbabwe has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery notably computers and heavy machines including bulldozers.


Zimbabwean Export Companies

Not one Zimbabwean corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.

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

  • Border Timbers (forestry products)
  • Colcom Foods Limited (meat processing)
  • Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (cotton lint, cottonseed)
  • Dairibord Zimbabwe Ltd (milk, other dairy products)
  • Hippo Valley Estate (sugar)
  • Sable Chemicals (fertilizer, ammonia nitrate)
  • Tanganda Tea (tea, coffee)
  • Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (iron, steel)

Zimbabwe’s capital city is Harare.

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

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 18, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on August 18, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 18, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 29, 2016

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Zimbabwe. Accessed on June 29, 2016

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 29, 2016