Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Danish krone appreciated by 2.8% against the US dollar since 2016 and increased by 1.9% from 2019 to 2020. Denmark’s stronger local currency makes its exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that over two-thirds (69.6%) of products exported from Denmark were bought by importers in: Germany (15.7% of the global total), Sweden (11.5%), Norway (6.9%), United Kingdom (6.5%), Netherlands (5.7%), United States (5.6%), China (4.1%), Poland (3.6%), France (3.5%), Italy (2.5%), Finland (2.1%) and Spain (2%).
From a continental perspective, 75.1% of Denmark’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 14.3% were sold to importers in Asia. Denmark shipped another 6.7% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.32%), Africa (1.28%) then Oceania led by Australia (1.24%).
Given Denmark’s population of 5.8 million people, its total $108.3 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $18,700 for every resident in the northern European country.
Denmark’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Danish global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Denmark.
- Pharmaceuticals: US$19.2 billion (17.7% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $14.4 billion (13.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $8.7 billion (8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $4.2 billion (3.8%)
- Meat: $4.1 billion (3.8%)
- Fish: $3.5 billion (3.3%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: $3.2 billion (2.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $3.1 billion (2.9%)
- Vehicles: $3.1 billion (2.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $2.7 billion (2.5%)
Denmark’s top 10 exports accounted for 61.2% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Fish was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 21.8% from 2019 to 2020. In second place for improving export sales were pharmaceuticals via a 9.9% gain. Denmark’s shipments of meat posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 8.4%.
The leading decliner among Denmark’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -36.7% drop year over year.
At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Denmark’s most valuable exported products are medication mixes in dosage (15.3% of total), swine meat (2.9%), blood fractions including antisera (2.1%), electric generating sets or converters (2%), cheese and curd (1.5%), miscellaneous furniture (1.4%), enzymes (1.3%), processed petroleum oils (also 1.3%) and computers including optical readers (1.2%).
Denmark earned an overall $10.7 billion trade surplus in 2020, down by -16.2% from the $12.8 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Danish 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.
- Pharmaceuticals: US$13.8 billion (Up by 6.2% since 2019)
- Meat: $3 billion (Up by 12.8%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $1.8 billion (Down by -5.5%)
- Modified starches, glues, enzymes: $1.6 billion (Up by 16.7%)
- Live animals: $1.5 billion (Up by 1%)
- Machinery including computers: $1.3 billion (Down by -59.8%)
- Organic chemicals: $1.3 billion (Up by 15.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $1.2 billion (Up by 0.1%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: $704.4 million (Down by -3%)
- Fish: $594.6 million (Down by -11.1%)
Denmark has highly positive net exports in the international trade of drugs and medicines. In turn, these cashflows indicate Denmark’s strong competitive advantages under the pharmaceuticals product category.
Below are exports from Denmark that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Denmark’s goods trail Danish importer spending on foreign products.
- Vehicles: -US$5.1 billion (Down by -4.2% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.5 billion (Up by 815.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$1.3 billion (Down by -19.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.2 billion (Down by -6%)
- Wood: -$1.2 billion (Up by 0.6%)
- Ships, boats: -$839.9 million (Down by -15%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$717 million (Up by 4.4%)
- Iron, steel: -$624.3 million (Down by -0.5%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: -$515.7 million (Up by 13%)
- Paper, paper items: -$501 million (Down by -16.9%)
Denmark has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the vehicles category notably for cars, trucks, trailers, tractors and even bicycles.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Denmark’s competitive disadvantages in the international vehicles market, but also represent key opportunities for Denmark to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations on alternative transportation means.
Danish Export Companies
Fourteen Danish corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 for 2016. Below is a sample of the major Danish companies that Forbes included.
- A.P. Moller-Maersk Group (transportation, energy)
- Carlsberg (beverages)
- Coloplast (medical equipment, supplies)
- DSV (transportation, logistics)
- Novo Nordisk (pharmaceuticals)
- Novozymes (biotechs)
- TDC (telecommunications services)
- Vestas Wind Systems (electrical equipment)
Wikipedia also lists exporters from Denmark. Selected examples are shown below.
- Arla Foods (dairy products)
- House of Amber (jewelry)
- Kopenhagen Fur (fur clothing, accessories)
- Lego Group (toys)
- Pharma Nord (pharmaceuticals)
- Royal Copenhagen (porcelain)
- Tuborg (brewery)
In macroeconomic terms, Denmark’s total exported goods represent 32.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($335.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 32.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 35.1% one year earlier. Those percentages suggest a decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Denmark’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Denmark’s unemployment rate was 4.6% at February 2021, down from 5.4% in April 2020 according to Trading Economics.
Denmark’s capital city is Copenhagen.
See also Denmark’s Top 10 Imports and Denmark’s Top 15 Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 31, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 31, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 31, 2021
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Wikipedia, Denmark. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Denmark. Accessed on March 31, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 31, 2021