From 2019 to 2020, the value of Afghanistan’s exported goods accelerated by 43.8%.
Afghanistan’s 5 biggest exported products by value in 2020 are fresh or dried grapes, figs and dates, miscellaneous nuts, raw cotton, and natural gums. Collectively, the 5 most valuable Afghani exported goods represent over half (54.3%) of the Asian country’s total shipments by dollar value.
The latest available country-specific data from 2019 shows that 98% of products exported from Afghanistan were bought by importers in: India (47.5% of the global total), Pakistan (34.5%), China (3.6%), Turkey (2.9%), United Arab Emirates (2.7%), Iran (1.69%), Iraq (1.68%), Germany (1.4%), Saudi Arabia (1.1%), United States (0.35%), Kazakhstan (0.34%) and Tajikistan (0.28%).
From a continental perspective, 97.1% of Afghanistan’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 2.2% were sold to importers in Europe. Tinier percentages went to North America (0.5%), Oceania led by Australia (0.1%) and Africa (0.03%).
Given Afghanistan’s population of 38.9 million people, its total $1.242 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $30 for every resident in the economically depressed Asian nation.
Afghanistan’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Afghan global shipments during 2020, at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Afghanistan.
- Fruits, nuts: US$556.2 million (44.8% of total exports)
- Vegetables: $189 million (15.2%)
- Cotton: $118.9 million (9.6%)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $112.2 million (9%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $82.2 million (6.6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $43.3 million (3.5%)
- Oil seeds: $32.8 million (2.6%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $18.1 million (1.5%)
- Iron, steel: $17.9 million (1.4%)
- Textile floor coverings: $12.5 million (1%)
Afghanistan’s top 10 exports accounted for 95.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Cotton was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 332.1% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales were vegetables via a 134.2% gain led by dried leguminous, notably kidney beans and lentils.
Afghanistan’s shipments under the coffee, tea and spices category posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 46.2%.
The leading decliner among Afghanistan’s top 10 export categories was textile floor coverings, weighed down by a -49.7% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, fresh or dried grapes represent Afghanistan ’s most valuable exported product representing 14.5% of the country’s total. In second place were figs and dates (11%) trailed by miscellaneous nuts (10.3%) then raw cotton (9.4%), natural gums, resins and balsams (9%), shelled dried leguminous vegetables (5.1%), onions, shallots, garlic and leeks (4.2%), fresh or chilled tomatoes (4%), then fresh apples and pears (3.7%).
The following types of Afghan 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.
- Fruits, nuts: US$442.6 million (Up by 39.6% since 2019)
- Cotton: $106.5 million (Up by 1,157%)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $101.7 million (Up by 3.7%)
- Vegetables: $93 million (Reversing a -$22.6 million deficit)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $25.4 million (Reversing an -$80.7 million deficit)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $4.6 million (Up by 7.1%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $3.8 million (Down by -19%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $1.2 million (No 2019 data)
- Furskins, artificial fur: $1.1 million (Up by 1,137%)
- Wool: $877,000 (Down by -70.9%)
Traditionally, Afghanistan has posted highly positive net exports in the international trade of grapes and figs, pistachios, almonds and apricots. In turn, these cashflows indicate Afghanistan’s strong competitive advantages under the fruits and nuts product category.
Overall Afghanistan incurred a -$4.1 billion trade deficit for 2020, down by -31.1% from -$5.9 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Afghanistan that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Afghanistan’s goods trail Afghan importer spending on foreign products.
- Milling products, malt, starches: -US$563.6 million (Down by -4.7% since 2019)
- Vehicles: -$349 million (Up by 48.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$343.9 million (Up by 13.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$337 million (Down by -66.6%)
- Cereals: -$299 million (Up by 67.1%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$253.7 million (Down by -43.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$234.6 million (Up by 190.2%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$227.4 million (No 2019 data)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$209.7 million (Up by 5,029%)
- Machinery including computers: -$196.5 million (Up by 81.9%)
Afghanistan has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits notably for milling products, malt and starches.
Afghan Export Companies
Not one Afghan corporation ranks among the Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Afghanistan. Selected examples are shown below.
- Afghanistan International Bank (commercial bank)
- AZ Corporation (construction materials)
- Khyber Afghan Airlines (cargo airliner)
- Spinzar Cotton Company (cotton)
- Watan Group (oil, mining and telecom conglomerate)
In macroeconomic terms, Afghanistan’s total exported goods represent 1.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($78.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 1.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compared to 0.9% in 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Afghanistan’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Afghanistan’s average unemployment rate was 11.2% in 2020, up from an average 11.2% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Afghanistan’s capital city is Kabul.
See also Pakistan’s Top 10 Imports, India’s Top 10 Imports, Top Almonds Exporters by Country and Grapes Exports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on July 12, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 12, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 12, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 12, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 12, 2021
Wikipedia, Afghanistan. Accessed on July 12, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 12, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Afghanistan. Accessed on July 12, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 12, 2021
WorldOMeter, Afghanistan Population. Accessed on July 12, 2021