Year over year, the total value of Iranian exports fell -15.6% from $48.6 billion during 2019.
Please note that 2020 is the latest year for which credible international trade statistics were available for Iran.
Iran’s 5 top export products are refined petroleum oils, ethylene polymers, semi-finished iron or non-alloy steel products, acyclic alcohols and miscellaneous nuts. Combined, Iran’s 5 major exports represent over one-third (35.5%) of the total dollar value for all products exported from Iran in 2020.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Iranian rial depreciated by -26.4% against the US dollar since 2017. Iran’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars in 2020 relatively less expensive for international buyers.
Iran’s Most Valuable Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 56.4% of products exported from Iran were bought by importers in: mainland China (23.1% of Iran’s global total), Iraq (12.1%), Turkey (4.32%), Afghanistan (4.26%), United Arab Emirates (2.9%), India (2.4%), Pakistan (1.7%), Indonesia (1.6%), Russia (1.22%), Thailand (1.2%), Oman (0.76%) and Azerbaijan (0.7%).
Applying a continental lens, 92.5% of the overall value for Iranian exports were delivered to Asian countries.
Much smaller percentages were sold to importers in Europe (5%), Africa (2%), Latin America (0.3%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, North America (0.11%), and Oceania (0.09%) led by Australia.
Given Iran’s population of 84.1 million people, its total $41 billion worth of exports in 2020 translates to roughly $500 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
Iran’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Iranian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Iran.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$16.7 billion (40.6% of total exports)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $4.7 billion (11.3%)
- Iron, steel: $4.2 billion (10.3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.9 billion (7.1%)
- Organic chemicals: $2.4 billion (5.8%)
- Vegetables: $941.2 million (2.3%)
- Copper: $876.2 million (2.1%)
- Fertilizers: $722.9 million (1.8%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $512.3 million (1.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $489.8 million (1.2%)
Iran’s top 10 exports accounted for 83.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Fruits and nuts was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 22% from 2019 to 2020.
The only other product category to post expanding export sales was plastics both as materials and items made from plastic articles via its 7.5% increase.
The leading decliner among Iran’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -27.2% drop year over year. That laggard was weighed down by lower revenues for Iranian shipments of crude oil compared to 2019.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, refined petroleum oils represent Iran’s most valuable exported product at 16.2% of the country’s total. In second place were ethylene polymers (8.1%), semi-finished iron or non-alloy steel products (4%), acyclic alcohols (3.7%), miscellaneous nuts (3.4%), refined copper and unwrought alloys (1.8%), nitrogenous fertilizers (1.7%), iron or non-alloy steel bars and rods (1.6%), cyclic hydrocarbons (1.1%) and fresh or chilled tomatoes (0.9%).
Products Generating Biggest Trade Surpluses for Iran
Iran garnered a $2.2 billion trade surplus in 2020, down by -52.1% from $4.7 billion in black ink one year earlier in 2019.
The following types of Iranian 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$16.2 billion (Down by -27.8% since 2019)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $3.5 billion (Up by 19.9%)
- Iron, steel: $2.8 billion (Down by -11.6%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.6 billion (Up by 29.3%)
- Organic chemicals: $867.4 million (Down by -14.2%)
- Copper: $854.5 million (Down by -13.5%)
- Vegetables: $783 million (Down by -7.4%)
- Fertilizers: $568.3 million (Up by 14.5%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $403 million (Down by -6.4%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $371.4 million (Up by 3.2%)
Iran has highly positive net exports in the international trade of crude and refined petroleum oils. In turn, these cashflows indicate Iran’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels-related product category.
Products Causing Worst Trade Deficits for Iran
Below are exports from Iran that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Iran’s goods trail Iranian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$5.41 billion (Down by -14.2% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$5.4 billion (Up by 3%)
- Cereals: -$4.8 billion (Down by -5.4%)
- Oil seeds: -$1.4 billion (Up by 2.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$1.3 billion (Down by -16.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.1 billion (Down by -8.7%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$1.1 billion (Down by -6.9%)
- Other chemical goods: -$894.5 million (Down by -12.2%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$813.4 million (Down by -21.8%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: -$789 million (Down by -27.8%)
Iran has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers product category.
Iranian Export Companies
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are examples of diverse exporters from Iran.
- Pars Pak (carpets, other textile floor coverings)
- Sana T Tejarat Anahita (grapes, raisins)
- Khadem Trading (cereals, aerated/mineral water)
- Dezdasht Agro Industry (juice, jams)
- Omid Nikan (acyclic polyhydric alcohols)
- Kayson (grinding machines, tubes/pipes/hoses, doors)
- Dashte Morghab (flour, meal)
- Celulose Irani (wooden furniture)
- Bushehr Marine Products (citrus fruit, melons)
- Axis Global Trading (pistachios)
In macroeconomic terms, Iran’s total exported goods represent 3.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($1.326 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.1% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Iran’s unemployment rate averaged 9.6% for 2020, down from an average 10.65% one year earlier in 2019 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Iran’s capital city is Tehran.
See also Iran’s Top 10 Imports, China’s Top Trading Partners, Turkey’s Top Trading Partners, Iraq’s Top Trading Partners and Iraq’s Top 10 Exports
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 18, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average)
International Trade Centre, Trade Map: Iran export data. Accessed on June 18, 2022
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Middle East: Iran. Accessed on June 18, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 18, 2022
Wikipedia, Iran. Accessed on June 18, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 18, 2022
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on June 18, 2022