That dollar amount reflects a -24.8% decline since 2017 and a -11.8% year-over-year drop from 2019 to 2020.
Please note that 2020 is the latest year for which credible international trade statistics were available for Iran.
Officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Middle Eastern country is historically referred to as Persia.
At the detailed 4-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, the top 5 Iranian exports are phone devices including smartphones, corn, soya beans, rice and wheat. Four of Iran’s 5 most valuable imported goods are foods. Collectively, Iran’s 5 most valuable exports accounted for almost one-fifth (23.9%) of the country’s globally exported products 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 imports paid for with US dollars starting with Iranian riels relatively costlier for Iranian importers in 2020.
Major International Buyers of Iranian Exports
The latest available country-specific data shows that 82.1% of products imported by Iran were furnished by exporters in: mainland China (24% of the global total), United Arab Emirates (23.8%), Turkey (10.7%), India (5.2%), Germany (4.5%), United Kingdom (2.52%), Russia (2.51%), Switzerland (2.2%), Netherlands (2.17%), Italy (1.67%), Singapore (1.44%) and South Korea (1.43%).
From a continental perspective, over three-fifths (77%) of Iran’s total imports by value in 2020 were purchased from Asian countries. European trade partners supplied another 20.9% of import purchases.
Tinier percentages came from Latin America (1.4%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, North America (0.4%), Africa (0.2%), then Oceania (0.1%) led by Australia.
Given Iran’s population of 84.1 million people, its total $38.8 billion in 2020 imports translates to roughly $460 in yearly product demand from every person in the Middle Eastern country.
Iran’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Iran’s import purchases during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Iran.
- Machinery including computers: US$5.9 billion (15.2% of total imports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $5.6 billion (14.4%)
- Cereals: $4.8 billion (12.5%)
- Organic chemicals: $1.52 billion (3.9%)
- Oil seeds: $1.46 billion (3.8%)
- Iron, steel: $1.4 billion (3.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $1.3 billion (3.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $1.24 billion (3.2%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $1.18 billion (3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1.16 billion (3%)
By value, Iran’s top 10 imports accounted for almost three-quarters (65.8%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
The 3 advancing product categories were iron and steel as materials (up 25.2% from 2019), electrical machinery and equipment (up 3.3%) and oil seeds (up 1.1%).
Leading top imported product categories that declined year over year were organic chemicals dropping -21.4%.
Iran’s Imports of Machinery Products Including Computers
In 2020, Iranian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Air or vacuum pumps: US$449.8 million (up 10.5% from 2019)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $208.5 million (down -8%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: $228 million (up 15.7%)
- Transmission shafts, gears, clutches: $102.3 million (up 8.1%)
- Temperature-change machines: $235 million (down -44.3%)
- Piston engine parts: $176.2 million (up 14.5%)
- Miscellaneous machinery: $260.4 million (down -17.9%)
- Ball, roller bearings: $164.6 million (down -6.5%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $202.5 million (up 5.2%)
- Rubber/plastic article making machines: $253.6 million (up 5.9%)
Among these import subcategories, Iranian purchases of taps, valves and similar appliances (up 15.7%), piston engine parts (up 14.5%) then air or vacuum pumps (up 10.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
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.
Iran’s Imports of Electrical Items
In 2020, Iranian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electronics-related goods.
- Phone devices including smartphones: US$3 billion (up 59.2% from 2019)
- Carbon electrodes, brushes: $479.9 million (down -67.2%)
- TV/radio/radar device parts: $345.2 million (up 21.6%)
- Electric motors, generators: $165.5 million (up 13.5%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $152.5 million (up 15.7%)
- Electric generating sets, converters: $148.5 million (down -12.3%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $107.6 million (up 1.8%)
- Printed circuits: $103.3 million (up 53.8%)
- Filament/discharge lamps: $100.3 million (up 0.4%)
- Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $91.9 million (up 15.8%)
Among these import subcategories, Iranian purchases of phone devices including smartphones (up 59.2%), printed circuits (up 53.8%) then television or radio and radar device parts (up 21.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
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.
Iran’s Imports of Cereals
In 2020, Iranian importers spent the most on the following subcategories of cereals.
- Corn: US$2.5 billion (up 11.8% from 2019)
- Rice: $932.1 million (down -45%)
- Barley: $919.3 million (up 524.2%)
- Wheat: $465.5 million (down -54.2%)
- Buckwheat, millet, canary seed: $1.4 million (down -31.6%)
Among these import subcategories, Iran’s purchases of barley (up 524.2%) and corn (up 11.8%) were the only gainers from 2019 to 2020.
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.
Iran’s Imports of Organic Chemicals
In 2020, Iranian importers spent the most on the following subcategories of organic chemicals.
- Heterocyclics, nucleic acids: US$101.6 million (down -29% from 2019)
- Provitamins, vitamins: $158.6 million (down -10.9%)
- Antibiotics: $131.7 million (down -43.8%)
- Hormones, miscellaneous steroids: $51.9 million (down -37.3%)
- Amino-compounds (oxygen): $71.4 million (down -20.7%)
- Carboxyamid/amide-function compounds: $18.7 million (down -14.3%)
- Heterocyclics, oxygen: $19.6 million (down -9.6%)
- Carboxylic acids: $42.1 million (down -6.9%)
- Other organic compounds: $132.4 million (up 7.5%)
- Miscellaneous heterocyclics: $48.2 million (up 52.1%)
Among these import subcategories, Iranian purchases of miscellaneous heterocyclics (up 52.1%) and miscellaneous organic compounds (up 7.5%) grew from 2019 to 2020.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported organic chemicals among businesses and consumers in Iran.
See also Iran’s Top 10 Exports, China’s Top Trading Partners, Turkey’s Top Trading Partners, Iraq’s Top Trading Partners and Iraq’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, Country Profiles. Accessed on June 18, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 18, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 18, 2022
Wikipedia, Iran. Accessed on June 18, 2022