Officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Middle Eastern country is sometimes referred to as Persia.
Given Iran’s population of 83.3 million people, its total $27.1 billion in 2019 imports translates to roughly $350 in yearly product demand from every person in the Middle Eastern country.
Based on 2018 data, Iran’s top suppliers accounting for about three-quarters (76.1%) of its international purchases were: China (24.9%), United Arab Emirates (13.8%), India (6.4%), Turkey (6.3%), Germany (5.9%), Switzerland (5.1%), South Korea (5%), Russia (3.3%), Italy (2.8%) then the United Kingdom (2.6%).
From a continental perspective, close to two-thirds (65.4%) of Iran’s total imports by value in 2019 were purchased from Asian countries. European trade partners supplied 31.3% of import purchases. Smaller percentages came from Latin America (1.9%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, North America (0.5%), Oceania (0.4%) Australia and New Zealand only, then Africa (0.3%).
Iran’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Iran’s import purchases during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Iran.
- Cereals: US$3.6 billion (13.2% of total imports)
- Machinery including computers: $3.5 billion (13%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $2.1 billion (7.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $1.3 billion (4.9%)
- Organic chemicals: $1.3 billion (4.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $1.1 billion (4.2%)
- Oil seeds: $1 billion (3.8%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $922.6 million (3.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $911.2 million (3.4%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $817.3 million (3%)
By value, Iran’s top 10 imports accounted for 61.4% of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Imported food industry waste and animal fodder posted the sole increase among Iran’s top 10 import categories, up 27.2% from 2018 to 2019.
Leading the declining product categories year over year among Iran’s top 10 imports was machinery including computers via a -54.2% drop.
In 2019, Iranian importers spent the most on the following subcategories of cereals.
- Rice: US$1.6 billion (up 0.1% from 2018)
- Corn: $1.4 billion (down -35.8%)
- Barley: $574.4 million (down -4.7%)
- Wheat: $28 million (up 10,953%)
- Buckwheat, millet, canary seed $738,000 (down -72.2%)
- Oats: $12,000 (down -97.9%)
Among these import subcategories, Iran’s purchases of wheat (up 10,953%) and rice (up 0.1%) grew from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of cereals-related imports among Iranian businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Iranian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: US$239.5 million (up 29.1% from 2018)
- Temperature-change machines: $210.3 million (down -71.7%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $184 million (down -17.5%)
- Air or vacuum pumps: $164.2 million (down -73.2%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $142.5 million (down -36.2%)
- Ball, roller bearings: $123.3 million (up 55.2%)
- Piston engine parts: $118.6 million (down -24.4%)
- Miscellaneous machinery: $116.8 million (down -74.5%)
- Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines: $110.4 million (down -48.6%)
- Turbo-jets: $109.6 million (down -47.1%)
Among these import subcategories, Iranian purchases of ball or roller bearings (up 55.2%) and taps, valves and similar appliances (up 29.1%) grew from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported machinery including computers among Iranian businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Iranian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electronics-related goods.
- Phone system devices: US$535.3 million (down -30.5% from 2018)
- Electric motors, generators: $167.4 million (up 35.5%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $119.5 million (up 532.1%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $118.8 million (up 18.9%)
- Microphones/headphones/amps: $113.1 million (up 219.3%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $106.5 million (up 8.2%)
- Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $103.6 million (up 28%)
- Insulated wire/cable: $73 million (up 1.9%)
- Filament/discharge lamps: $63.7 million (down -26.5%)
- TV/radio/radar device parts: $54.2 million (down -78.8%)
Among these import subcategories, Iranian purchases of television receivers, monitors and projectors (up 532.1%), microphones, headphones and amplifiers (up 219.3%) then electric motors or generators (up 35.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of electronics-related imports among Iranian businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Iranian importers spent the most on the following subcategories of optical, technical and medical apparatus.
- Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays): US$401.8 million (down -27.8% from 2018)
- Orthopedic appliances: $283.9 million (up 23.8%)
- Lenses, prisms, mirrors: $122.6 million (up 5892.2%)
- X-ray equipment: $113.5 million (down -10.7%)
- Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools: $94.1 million (up 779%)
- Physical/chemical analysis tools: $64.6 million (down -29.8%)
- Regulate/control instruments: $56.8 million (down -53%)
- Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates: $46.1 million (up 33.2%)
- Liquid/gas checking instruments: $35.8 million (down -6.3%)
- Other measuring/testing machines: $31.4 million (down -63.8%)
Among these import subcategories, Iranian purchases of lenses, prisms and mirrors (up 5,892%), liquid crystal, laser or optical tools (up 779%) and optical fiber cables, sheets or plates (up 33.2%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported optical, technical and medical items among businesses and consumers in Iran.
See also Iran’s Top 10 Exports, China’s Top 10 Exports and Top Middle Eastern Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, Country Profiles. Accessed on June 13, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 13, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 13, 2020
Wikipedia, Iran. Accessed on October 27, 2019