Year over year, the value of Iceland’s exported goods accelerated by 23.9% from $6 billion in 2021.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2022, the Icelandic króna depreciated by -24.9% against the US dollar since 2018 and diluted by -6.5% from 2021 to 2022. Iceland’s weaker local currency made its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
Most Valuable International Customers for Iceland’s Exports
The latest available country-specific data shows that 87.4% of products exported from Iceland were bought by importers in: Netherlands (37.4% of Iceland’s global total), United Kingdom (9%), United States of America (7.7%), Germany (6.5%), France (6.4%), Norway (5.4%), Spain (4.3%), Denmark (2.5%), Japan (2.2%), mainland China (2.1%), Poland (1.9%) and Canada (1.8%).
From a continental perspective, 82.5% of Iceland exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 9.6% were sold to North American importers. Iceland shipped another 5.7% worth of goods to customers in Asia.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (1%), Latin America (0.7%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.5%) led by Australia.
Given Iceland’s population of 374,000 people, its total $7.41billion in 2022 exports translates to about $19,800 for every resident in the Nordic country. That dollar metric greatly exceeds the average $16,200 per capita one year earlier during 2021.
Iceland’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Icelandic global shipments during 2022. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Iceland.
- Aluminum: US$3.1 billion (41.5% of total exports)
- Fish: $2.3 billion (31.4%)
- Iron, steel: $367 million (5%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $288.7 million (3.9%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $230.6 million (3.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $185.9 million (2.5%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $168 million (2.3%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $112.7 million (1.5%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $111.8 million (1.5%)
- Machinery including computers: $89.8 million (1.2%)
Iceland’s top 10 exports are concentrated, accounting for 93.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 144.7% since 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was the animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes which rose by 110.5%.
Iceland’s shipments of food industry waste and animal fodder posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 108.5% year over year.
The lone decliner among Iceland’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers, dragged down by a -23.3% reduction.
The above-listed product categories are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Iceland’s most valuable exported products in 2022 were unwrought aluminum (35.9%), fish fillets and other pieces (15.6%), whole fresh fish (6.3%), whole frozen fish (4.9%), iron ferroalloys (4.6%), miscellaneous dried, salted or smoked fish (4.2%), inedible meat flour (3.8%), aluminum wire (3.5%), fish or marine mammal fats and oils (3%), then processed petroleum oils (2.3%).
Products Resulting in Iceland’s Largest Trade Surpluses
The following types of Icelandic 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.
- Aluminum: US$2.9 billion (Up by 33.5% since 2021)
- Fish: $2.2 billion (Up by 1%)
- Iron, steel: $260.5 million (Up by 79.8%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $177.8 million (Up by 209.2%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $140 million (Up by 33,560%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $99.8 million (Up by 2%)
- Live animals: $11.1 million (Down by -33.4%)
- Meat: $7.4 million (Reversing a -$3 million deficit)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $4.7 million (Down by -8.4%)
- Woodpulp: $1.9 million (Down by -30.1%)
Iceland has highly positive net exports in the international trade of aluminum and fish. In turn, these cashflows indicate Iceland’s strong competitive advantages under both product categories.
Products Causing Iceland’s Worst Trade Deficits
Iceland incurred an overall -$2.3 billion trade deficit for 2022 expanding by 23.6% from -$1.9 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2021.
Below are exports from Iceland that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Iceland’s goods trail Icelandic importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.3 billion (Up by 139.2% since 2021)
- Vehicles: -$1 billion (Up by 31.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$958.8 million (Up by 15.6%)
- Machinery including computers: -$843.3 million (Up by 13.5%)
- Inorganic chemicals: -$679.1 million (Up by 16.1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$274.1 million (Up by 8.1%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$254.5 million (Up by 115.5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$244.3 million (Up by 32.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$225 million (Up by 8.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$203 million (Down by -12.8%)
Iceland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the energy-related product category mineral fuels including oil plus the vehicles category.
Icelandic Export Companies
Not one Icelandic corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists export-related companies from Iceland. Selected examples are shown below.
- Arctic Trucks (commercial vehicles)
- Carbon Recycling International (methanol)
- Egill Skallagrímsson Brewery (alcoholic beverages)
- HB Grandi (fishery)
- Nói Síríus (chocolates)
- Promens (packaging, plastics)
- Sláturfélag Suðurlands (food producer co-op)
In macroeconomic terms, Iceland’s total exported goods represent 29.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2022 (an estimated $24.888 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 29.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2022 compares to 27.1% one year earlier. That metric suggests a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Iceland’s total economic performance, albeit based on relatively short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Iceland’s unemployment rate averaged 4% for 2022, down from an average 6.017% in 2021 according to statistics from the International Monetary Fund.
Iceland’s capital city is Reykjavik.
See also Denmark’s Top Trading Partners, Norway’s Top Trading Partners, Frozen Fish Exports by Country and Top Salmon Exports & Imports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook: Country Profiles. Accessed on April 10, 2023
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 10, 2023
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on April 10, 2023
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 10, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 10, 2023
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 10, 2023
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on April 10, 2023
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on April 10, 2023
Wikipedia, Iceland. Accessed on April 10, 2023
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Iceland. Accessed on April 10, 2023
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on April 10, 2023