Since 2020, the overall value of Bulgarian exports accelerated by 31.4% from $31.9 billion.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, the Bulgarian lev appreciated by 2.9% against the US dollar since 2017 and increased by 1.8% from 2020 to 2021. Bulgaria’s stronger local currency makes its exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
Largest International Customers for Bulgaria’s Exports
The latest available country-specific data shows that approximately two-thirds (65.9%) of products exported from Bulgaria were bought by importers in: Germany (15% of Bulgaria’s global total), Romania (10.2%), Italy (7.6%), Greece (6.6%), Turkey (6.2%), France (3.7%), Belgium (3.3%), mainland China (3.2%), Spain (2.8%), Poland (2.54%), Netherlands (2.52%) and Austria (2.4%).
From a continental perspective, 78.2% of Bulgaria’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 15.5% were sold to importers in Asia.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (3.1%), North America (2.8%), Latin America (0.3%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean then Oceania (0.1%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Bulgaria’s population of 6.9 million people, its total $41.94 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $6,100 for every resident in the Southeast European nation. That dollar metric outpaces the average $4,600 per person one year earlier during 2020.
Bulgaria’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Bulgarian global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Bulgaria.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$4.4 billion (10.6% of total exports)
- Copper: $3.8 billion (9%)
- Machinery including computers: $3.4 billion (8.1%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $2.3 billion (5.6%)
- Cereals: $2 billion (4.9%)
- Vehicles: $1.52 billion (3.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.5 billion (3.6%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $1.3 billion (3.1%)
- Iron, steel: $1.18 billion (2.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $1.16 billion (2.8%)
Bulgaria’s top 10 exports accounted for 54% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Iron and steel are metals that also represent the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 93.7% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was mineral fuels including oil via a 63.1% advance.
Bulgaria’s shipments of cereals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 52.2%, propelled by higher international sales of Bulgarian wheat and barley.
The lone decliner among Bulgaria’s top 10 export categories was pharmaceuticals, thanks to its -0.3% year-over-year drop.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code, Bulgaria’s most valuable export products are refined copper plus unwrought alloys (4.2% of total). Following that is wheat (3.3%), processed petroleum oils (3.1%), medication mixes in dosage (2.5%), unrefined copper (2.4%), biodiesel (2.2%), precious metal ores and concentrates (2%), sunflower and safflower seed oils (1.9%), sunflower seeds (1.7%) and insulated wire or cable (1.5%).
Products Generating Bulgaria’s Largest Trade Surpluses
The following types of Bulgarian 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.
- Copper: US$2.7 billion (Up by 27.3% since 2020)
- Cereals: $1.9 billion (Up by 55%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $505.1 million (Up by 70.8%)
- Arms, ammunition: $478 million (Down by -14.2%)
- Oil seeds: $463.4 million (Up by 344%)
- Glass: $423 million (Up by 5.8%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $351 million (Up by 3.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $316.5 million (Up by 6.2%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $312.9 million (Down by -24.8%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $244.8 million (Up by 20.2%)
Bulgaria has positive net exports in the international trade of wheat, corn, barley and, to a lesser extent, rice. In turn, these cashflows indicate Bulgaria’s strong competitive advantages under the copper product category.
Products Causing Bulgaria’s Worst Trade Deficits
Bulgaria incurred an overall trade deficit of -$5.5 billion during 2021, up 79.9% from -$3.1 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2020.
Below are exports from Bulgaria that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Bulgaria’s goods trail Bulgarian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$3 billion (Up by 106.9% since 2020)
- Vehicles: -$1.5 billion (Up by 55.4%)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.3 billion (Up by 15.2%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$1.2 billion (Up by 3.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$974.3 million (Up by 80.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$914.1 million (Up by 66.4%)
- Iron, steel: -$857.6 million (Up by 52.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$762.7 million (Up by 219.5%)
- Paper, paper items: -$317.3 million (Up by 43.5%)
- Meat: -$311.3 million (Down by -4.1%)
Bulgaria has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related goods, notably crude oil, petroleum gas and coal.
Bulgarian Export Companies
Not one Bulgarian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists companies from Bulgaria including international trade players. Selected examples are shown below.
- Armimex (weapons, ammunition)
- Astika Brewery (beer)
- Bulgartabac (cigarettes)
- Chimimport (chemicals)
- Kremikovtzi AD (cast iron, steel)
- LUKOIL Neftochim Burgas (petrochemical products)
- Maxeurope (bicycles, childcare products)
- Navibulgar (shipping company)
- Sofia Mel (bread)
- Vitta Foods (frozen pastry products)
In macroeconomic terms, Bulgaria’s total exported goods represent 23.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($178.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 23.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 19.4% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Bulgaria’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Bulgaria’s unemployment rate averaged 5.3% for 2021, up from an average 5.207% one year earlier in 2020 according to statistics from the International Monetary Fund.
Bulgaria’s capital city is Sofia.
See also Bulgaria’s Top Trading Partners, Germany’s Top Trading Partners, Romania’s Top Trading Partners and Italy’s Top Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Europe: Bulgaria. Accessed on July 17, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 17, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average)
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 17, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 17, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 17, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 17, 2022
Wikipedia, Bulgaria. Accessed on July 17, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Bulgaria. Accessed on July 17, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 17, 2022