Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Brazilian real has depreciated by -47.7% against the US dollar since 2016 and dropped by -30.7% from 2019 to 2020. Brazil’s weaker local currency make Brazilian exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
From a continental perspective, 52.8% of Brazil exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 16.8% were sold to European importers. Brazil shipped another 14.1% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (12.1%), Africa (3.8%) then Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia and Marshall Islands.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 65.2% of products exported from Brazil were bought by importers in: China (32.3% of the global total), United States (10.3%), Argentina (4%), Netherlands (3.5%), Canada (2%), Japan (2%), Germany (2%), Spain (1.9%), Chile (1.8%), Mexico (1.8%), South Korea (1.8%) and Singapore (1.7%).
Given Brazil’s population of 211.4 million people, its total $209.8 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $990 for every resident in South America’s leading economy.
Brazil’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Brazilian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Brazil.
- Oil seeds: US$29 billion (13.8% of total exports)
- Ores, slag, ash: $28.9 billion (13.8%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $24.7 billion (11.8%)
- Meat: $15.8 billion (7.5%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $8.9 billion (4.2%)
- Iron, steel: $8.7 billion (4.1%)
- Machinery including computers: $8.7 billion (4.1%)
- Vehicles: $6.8 billion (3.2%)
- Cereals: $6.5 billion (3.1%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $6.5 billion (3.1%)
Brazil’s top 10 exports accounted for over two-thirds (68.9%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Sugar plus sugar confectionery was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 64.9% year over year since 2019. In second place for improving export sales was the ores, slag and ash category which rose 14.2% led by iron ores and concentrates. Brazil’s shipments of oil seeds posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 9.8% year over year.
The leading decliner among Brazil’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers via a -30.3% drop.
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 Brazil’s Most Valuable Export Products further down below.
Overall, Brazil achieved a $50.9 billion trade surplus during 2020 up by 9.1% from its $46.7 billion positive trade balance one year earlier.
The following types of Brazilian 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.
- Oil seeds: US$28.6 billion (Up by 9% since 2019)
- Ores, slag, ash: $28.2 billion (Up by 17.1%)
- Meat: $15.6 billion (Up by 4.6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $10.6 billion (Up by 74.3%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $8.8 billion (Up by 65.9%)
- Iron, steel: $7 billion (Down by -20.3%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $6.1 billion (Up by 1.8%)
- Woodpulp: $5.8 billion (Down by -20.2%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $5.2 billion (Up by 10.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: $4.7 billion (Up by 38.6%)
Brazil has highly positive net exports in the international trade of oil seeds which is often used for vegetable oil and related products. In turn, these cashflows indicate Brazil’s strong competitive advantages under the oil seed product category.
Below are exports from Brazil that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Brazil’s goods trail Brazilian importer spending on foreign products.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US-$17.6 billion (Down by -5.6% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$11.2 billion (Up by 26.5%)
- Ships, boats: -$10.2 billion (Up by 484.9%)
- Organic chemicals: -$8.9 billion (Up by 0.001%)
- Fertilizers: -$7.9 billion (Down by -12.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$6 billion (Down by -2.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$4.7 billion (Up by 7.5%)
- Other chemical goods: -$4.6 billion (Up by 4.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$4 billion (Down by -6.7%)
- Other base metal goods: -$3.7 billion (Up by 33.4%)
Brazil has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for assembled electronic equipment. That loss-leader category encompasses consumer electronics.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Brazil’s competitive disadvantages in the international electronics market, but also represent key opportunities for Brazil to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Brazilian Export Companies
Twenty-five Brazilian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Brazilian companies that Forbes included:
- Braskem (specialized chemicals)
- BRF-Brasil Foods (food processing)
- Cosan (food processing)
- CSN (iron, steel)
- Embraer (aerospace)
- Itaúsa (industrials conglomerate)
- JBS (food processing)
- Metalurgica Gerdau (iron, steel)
- Petrobras (oil, gas)
- Vale (iron, steel)
- WEG (electrical equipment)
Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from Brazil, plus:
- Grupo Pão de Açúcar (retail including online)
- Oi (telecommunications)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of Brazilian exporters.
- Afil Import Export E Comercio (garlic, flaxseed, corn)
- American Safety Razor Brazil (razor blades, adipic acid)
- Hapag Lloyd Brazil (containers, siliceous earths, white cement)
- Inergy Automotive Systems Do Brazil (combustion engine internal pumps, gas station external pumps)
- Vanguard Logistics Services Do Brazil (transmission belts, rubber/plastic molds, malt beer)
Searchable List of Brazil’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Brazil during 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2019.
|Rank||Brazilian Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||Change|
|2||Iron ores, concentrates||$22,181,780,000||+16.1%|
|4||Sugar (cane or beet)||$5,245,545,000||+67.2%|
|5||Frozen bovine meat||$5,610,764,000||+19%|
|7||Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues||$5,825,935,000||+1.5%|
|8||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$7,167,662,000||-20.6%|
|10||Processed petroleum oils||$5,788,401,000||-12.7%|
|13||Cotton (uncarded, uncombed)||$2,638,323,000||+22.3%|
|14||Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)||$3,160,808,000||-13.4%|
|18||Copper ores, concentrates||$2,253,901,000||+6.9%|
|21||Fruit and vegetable juices||$2,110,092,000||-24%|
|22||Unmanufactured tobacco, tobacco waste||$2,043,520,000||-25.9%|
|23||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$2,252,410,000||-39.4%|
|28||Piston engine parts||$1,286,690,000||-24.8%|
|29||Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)||$877,847,000||+1.7%|
|30||Rubber tires (new)||$1,153,786,000||-25.8%|
|32||Fresh or chilled beef||$880,818,000||-12.8%|
|34||Monument/building stones, art||$760,240,000||-2.5%|
|36||Medication mixes in dosage||$851,717,000||-14.9%|
|37||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$810,809,000||-12.1%|
|40||Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)||$551,206,000||+16.9%|
|44||Other animal leather||$676,589,000||-17.7%|
|45||Uncoated paper for writing/printing||$748,843,000||-27.2%|
|46||Coffee/tea extracts, concentrates||$578,160,000||-7.5%|
|48||Alloy steel ingots||$1,022,451,000||-53%|
|49||Electric motors, generators||$583,948,000||-24.5%|
|50||Red meat offal||$470,301,000||-8.3%|
|51||Wood carpentry, builders' joinery||$332,303,000||+25.6%|
|53||Chassis fitted with engine||$559,238,000||-28.7%|
|54||Other food preparations||$456,055,000||-12.9%|
|55||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$543,330,000||-27.1%|
|58||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$634,222,000||-41.9%|
|59||Hydrogen, rare gases||$434,815,000||-17.7%|
|60||Air or vacuum pumps||$580,789,000||-39%|
|61||Iron or steel tubes, pipes||$558,684,000||-37.2%|
|62||Manganese ores, concentrates||$483,194,000||-28.3%|
|63||Flexible base metal tubing||$1,053,283,000||-67.2%|
|65||Unglazed ceramic flags, tiles, cubes||$345,127,000||-4.5%|
|66||Animal guts, bladders||$381,122,000||-13.6%|
|68||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$271,994,000||+17.8%|
|71||Electric motor parts||$439,736,000||-31.8%|
|74||Chemical woodpulp (dissolving)||$322,305,000||-8.5%|
|75||Footwear (rubber or plastic)||$439,095,000||-33.1%|
|76||Liquid pumps and elevators||$412,856,000||-29.2%|
|77||Electric generating sets, converters||$114,725,000||+153.8%|
|78||Precious metal waste, scrap||$205,902,000||+37.8%|
|79||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$381,069,000||-26%|
|84||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$238,636,000||+8.4%|
|86||Cellulose fiber paper||$277,051,000||-7%|
|87||Phone system devices||$269,427,000||-5.7%|
|88||Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances||$216,669,000||+13%|
|89||Electrical converters/power units||$276,683,000||-14.3%|
|90||Melons, watermelons, papayas||$250,602,000||-6.3%|
|91||Uncoated kraft paper||$238,070,000||-2.1%|
|93||Live bovine cattle||$355,826,000||-39%|
|94||Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$304,558,000||-29.5%|
|98||Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust||$188,571,000||+4.2%|
|99||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$239,678,000||-19%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$185.1 billion or 88.2% by value for all international product sales originating from Brazil during 2020.
In macroeconomic terms, Brazil’s total exported goods represent 6.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($3.079 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 6.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 6.5% for 2019, seeming to indicate a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Brazil’s total economic performance.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Brazil’s unemployment rate was 14.1% at November 2020, up from an average 12.258% for 2019 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Brazil’s capital city is Brasilia, although many tourists still assume flamboyant Rio de Janeiro is the country’s capital–at least for entertainment purposes.
See also Brazil’s Top 10 Imports, Brazil’s Top Trade Partners, Top Brazilian Trade Balances and Brazil’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on February 16, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 16, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on February 16, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 16, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 16, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 16, 2021
Wikipedia, Brazil. Accessed on February 16, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on February 16, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Brazil. Accessed on February 16, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on February 16, 2021
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on February 16, 2021