Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, the Brazilian real has depreciated by -69% against the US dollar since 2017 and dropped by -4.5% from 2020 to 2021. Brazil’s weaker local currency make Brazilian exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
Brazil’s 8 biggest exports by value in 2021 were iron ores and concentrates, soya beans, crude oil, sugar, solid residues including soya bean oil-cake, processed petroleum oils, frozen beef, and fresh, chilled or frozen poultry meat. Collectively, that subset of Brazilian products represents over half of Brazil’s exports during 2021.
The latest available country-specific data shows that about two-thirds (66%) of products exported from Brazil were bought by importers in: mainland China (31.3% of the global total), United States of America (11.2%), Argentina (4.2%), Netherlands (3.3%), Chile (2.5%), Singapore (2.1%), South Korea (2%), Mexico (2%), Japan (also 2%), Spain (1.9%), Germany (1.8%) and Canada (also 1.8%).
From a continental perspective, 51.9% of Brazil exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 16.1% were sold to importers in Europe. Brazil shipped another 14.9% worth of goods to North America, with another 13.4% going to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Smaller percentages were sold to buyers in Africa (3.4%) and Oceania (0.3%) led by Australia and Marshall Islands.
Given Brazil’s population of 211.4 million people, its total $209.8 billion in 2021 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 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Brazil.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$48.7 billion (17.4% of total exports)
- Oil seeds: $39.2 billion (13.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $38.4 billion (13.7%)
- Meat: $18.2 billion (6.5%)
- Iron, steel: $14.3 billion (5.1%)
- Machinery including computers: $10.7 billion (3.8%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $9.4 billion (3.3%)
- Vehicles: $9 billion (3.2%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $8 billion (2.8%)
- Woodpulp: $6.7 billion (2.4%)
Brazil’s top 10 exports accounted for approaching three-quarters (72.1%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Ores, slag and ash was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 68.6% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was the oil seeds product category via a 64.5% increase.
Brazil’s shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 54.2% year over year.
The most modest increase among Brazil’s top 10 export categories belongs to woodpulp (up 5.5%).
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 Brazil’s Most Valuable Export Products further down below.
Brazil’s Major Trade Surpluses by Product Category
Brazil achieved an overall $61.4 billion trade surplus for 2021 up by 21.9% from its $50.4 billion positive trade balance one year earlier in 2020.
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.
- Ores, slag, ash: US$47.7 billion (Up by 69.1% since 2020)
- Oil seeds: $38.5 billion (Up by 34.8%)
- Meat: $17.9 billion (Up by 14.9%)
- Iron, steel: $9.7 billion (Up by 40.6%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $9.3 billion (Up by 5.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $7.9 billion (Down by -14.6%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $7.6 billion (Up by 24.6%)
- Woodpulp: $6.5 billion (Up by 11.8%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $6.2 billion (Up by 18.3%)
- Gems, precious metals: $5.2 billion (Up by 10.4%)
Brazil has highly positive net exports in the international trade of iron ores and concentrates. In turn, these cashflows indicate Brazil’s strong competitive advantages under the ores, slag and ash product category.
Brazil’s Major Trade Deficits by 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$23.9 billion (Up by 27.9% since 2020)
- Machinery including computers: -$18.6 billion (Up by 21.9%)
- Fertilizers: -$14.9 billion (Up by 89.7%)
- Organic chemicals: -$10.8 billion (Up by 20.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$9.9 billion (Up by 65.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$6.3 billion (Up by 54.3%)
- Vehicles: -$5.5 billion (Up by 84.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$5.3 billion (Up by 16.1%)
- Other chemical goods: -$5.2 billion (Up by 13.6%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: -$2.3 billion (Up by 72.4%)
Brazil has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for assembled electronic equipment. That loss-leader category encompasses consumer electronics.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Brazil’s competitive disadvantages in the international electronics market, but also represent key opportunities for Brazil to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Brazilian Major Export Companies
Twenty-five Brazilian corporations ranked among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Brazilian companies that Forbes included.
- Braskem (specialized chemicals)
- BRF-Brasil Foods (food processing)
- Cosan (food processing)
- CSN (iron, steel)
- Embraer (aerospace)
- Itaúsa (industrials conglomerate)
- JBS (food processing)
- Metalurgica Gerdau (iron, steel)
- Petrobras (oil, gas)
- Vale (iron, steel)
- WEG (electrical equipment)
Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from Brazil, plus:
- Grupo Pão de Açúcar (retail including online)
- Oi (telecommunications)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of Brazilian exporters.
- Afil Import Export E Comercio (garlic, flaxseed, corn)
- American Safety Razor Brazil (razor blades, adipic acid)
- Hapag Lloyd Brazil (containers, siliceous earths, white cement)
- Inergy Automotive Systems Do Brazil (combustion engine internal pumps, gas station external pumps)
- Vanguard Logistics Services Do Brazil (transmission belts, rubber/plastic molds, malt beer)
Searchable List of Brazil’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Brazil during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2020.
|Rank||Brazilian Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Iron ores, concentrates||$44,660,652,000||+73.2%|
|4||Sugar (cane or beet)||$9,186,406,000||+5.1%|
|5||Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues||$7,342,745,000||+24.3%|
|6||Processed petroleum oils||$7,263,332,000||+43.6%|
|9||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$6,391,814,000||+12.4%|
|11||Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)||$5,557,233,000||+104.5%|
|15||Cotton (uncarded, uncombed)||$3,405,902,000||+5.5%|
|16||Copper ores, concentrates||$3,369,104,000||+39.9%|
|20||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$2,268,698,000||+66.1%|
|24||Fruit and vegetable juices||$1,865,440,000||+16.3%|
|27||Unmanufactured tobacco, tobacco waste||$1,349,296,000||-10.9%|
|28||Piston engine parts||$1,320,391,000||+36.5%|
|29||Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)||$1,210,558,000||+87.5%|
|31||Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)||$1,100,483,000||+23.3%|
|32||Rubber tires (new)||$1,080,299,000||+26.3%|
|34||Monument/building stones, art||$1,016,595,000||+37.2%|
|35||Fresh or chilled beef||$996,190,000||+29.8%|
|38||Alloy steel ingots||$907,048,000||+88.8%|
|40||Other animal leather||$788,275,000||+41.6%|
|42||Medication mixes in dosage||$697,982,000||-3.7%|
|43||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$688,279,000||+86.7%|
|44||Electric motors, generators||$607,451,000||+37.7%|
|45||Precious metal waste, scrap||$602,553,000||+109.4%|
|47||Wood carpentry, builders' joinery||$571,259,000||+36.9%|
|48||Uncoated paper for writing/printing||$554,500,000||+1.8%|
|49||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$553,015,000||+51.2%|
|50||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$545,430,000||+93.4%|
|51||Coffee/tea extracts, concentrates||$545,423,000||+2%|
|53||Air or vacuum pumps||$536,155,000||+51.2%|
|56||Unglazed ceramic tiles, cubes||$488,143,000||+48.1%|
|57||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$477,745,000||+20.6%|
|59||Red meat offal||$462,219,000||+7.1%|
|60||Hydrogen, rare gases||$448,777,000||+25.4%|
|62||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$422,975,000||+32%|
|63||Other food preparations||$417,861,000||+5.2%|
|64||Liquid pumps and elevators||$401,898,000||+37.5%|
|67||Footwear (rubber or plastic)||$383,559,000||+30.7%|
|69||Electric motor parts||$379,978,000||+26.7%|
|76||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$343,841,000||+32.9%|
|77||Animal guts, bladders, stomachs||$343,085,000||+4.1%|
|78||Petroleum oil residues||$337,119,000||+141.8%|
|80||Chemical woodpulp (dissolving)||$00||+11.8%|
|81||Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances||$321,921,000||+31.5%|
|82||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$310,475,000||+59.9%|
|86||Electrical converters/power units||$295,501,000||+24.6%|
|87||Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$293,491,000||+36.7%|
|89||Cellulose fiber paper||$290,228,000||+12.6%|
|91||Uncoated kraft paper||$280,956,000||+20.5%|
|96||Electric generating sets, converters||$271,386,000||-6.8%|
|97||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$270,411,000||+124.4%|
|98||Melons, watermelons, papayas||$268,504,000||+14.3%|
|99||Phone devices including smartphones||$266,848,000||+5%|
|100||Ligneous fiberboard including wood||$266,357,000||+38.5%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$248.2 billion or 88.4% by value for all international product sales originating from Brazil during 2021.
In macroeconomic terms, Brazil’s total exported goods represent 8.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($3.438 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 8.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 6.8% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Brazil’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Brazil’s unemployment rate was 13.792% at October 2021, down from an average 13.5% for 2020 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Brazil’s capital city is Brasilia, although many tourists still assume that 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 March 17, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 17, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 17, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 17, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 17, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 17, 2022
Wikipedia, Brazil. Accessed on March 17, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 17, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Brazil. Accessed on March 17, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 17, 2022
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 17, 2022