That dollar amount reflects a 37.7% increase since 2017 and a 45.8% acceleration from 2020 to 2021.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, the Russian ruble has depreciated by -26.2% against the US dollar since 2017 and declined by -2.1% from 2020 to 2021. The Russian Federation’s weaker local currency make Russian exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
Russia’s biggest export products by value in 2021 were crude oil, refined petroleum oils, coal, gold, and goods made from semi-finished iron or non-alloy steel. In aggregate, those major exports accounted for 45.6% of overall exports sales from Russia. That percentage suggests that the Russian Federation offers a relatively concentrated range of exported goods.
Russia is a world leader for exporting wheat and ranks among the most lucrative for global sales of crude oil, refined petroleum oils and coal.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 63.3% of products exported from Russia were bought by importers in: China (13.8% of Russia’s global total), Netherlands (8.6%), Germany (6%), Turkey (5.4%), Belarus (4.6%), United Kingdom (4.5%), Italy (3.9%), Kazakhstan (3.8%), United States (3.6%), South Korea (3.44%), Poland (3.4%) and Japan (2.2%).
From a continental perspective, roughly half (50.8%) of Russia’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 39.8% were sold to importers in Asia. Russia shipped another 3% worth of goods to North America.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (3%), Latin America (1.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (0.1%) led by New Zealand and Australia.
Given Russia’s population of 146.1 million people, its total $491.6 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $3,400 for every resident in the vast Eurasian country. That metric compares with an average $2,300 in 2020.
Russia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Russian global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Russia.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$211.5 billion (43% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $31.6 billion (6.4%)
- Iron, steel: $28.9 billion (5.9%)
- Fertilizers: $12.5 billion (2.5%)
- Wood: $11.7 billion (2.4%)
- Machinery including computers: $10.7 billion (2.2%)
- Cereals: $9.1 billion (1.9%)
- Aluminum: $8.8 billion (1.8%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $7.4 billion (1.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $6.2 billion (1.3%)
Russia’s top 10 exports accounted for over two-thirds (68.8%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Iron and steel was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 80.4% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales were international sales of Russian fertilizers via a 78.5% gain.
Russia’s shipments of ores, slag and ash posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 71.2%.
The sole decliner among Russia’s top 10 export categories was cereals thanks to its -2.2% drop year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Russia’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
Products Generating Highest Trade Surpluses for Russia
Russia generated an overall $198.2 billion trade surplus during 2021, an 87.9% expansion from the $105.4 billion surplus one year earlier.
The following types of Russian 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$209.2 billion (Up by 49.2% since 2020)
- Gems, precious metals: $30.4 billion (Up by 3%)
- Iron, steel: $23 billion (Up by 87%)
- Fertilizers: $12.3 billion (Up by 79.1%)
- Wood: $10.9 billion (Up by 44.3%)
- Cereals: $8.9 billion (Down by -1.6%)
- Aluminum: $7.3 billion (Up by 66.7%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $5 billion (Up by 111.3%)
- Copper: $4.2 billion (Up by 4.1%)
- Fish: $3.7 billion (Up by 26.1%)
Russia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of crude and refined oils, coal, and petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Russia’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Products Causing Highest Trade Deficits for Russia
Below are exports from Russia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Russia’s goods trail Russian importer spending on foreign products.
- Machinery including computers: -US$43.6 billion (Up by 25.1% since 2020)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$30.7 billion (Up by 18.6%)
- Vehicles: -$23 billion (Up by 46.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$11.3 billion (Up by 15.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$7 billion (Up by 5.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$6.4 billion (Up by 15.5%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$5.3 billion (Up by 4.1%)
- Ships, boats: -$3.8 billion (Up by 170.9%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$3.7 billion (Up by 32.4%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$3.6 billion (Up by 1.1%)
Russia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery including computers.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Russia’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market, but also represent key opportunities for Russia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Major Russian Export Companies
Almost 30 Russian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. The following companies are selected examples of leading companies headquartered in Russia.
- Gazprom (oil, gas)
- Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel (iron, steel)
- Mechel (iron, steel)
- Severstal (iron, steel)
- Sistema (telecommunications)
- Surgutneftegas (oil, gas)
Wikipedia also lists large international trade players from Russia.
- Alrosa (diversified metals)
- LukOil (oil, gas)
- Norilsk Nickel (diversified metals)
- Novatek (oil, gas)
- Novolipetsk Steel (iron, steel)
- Rosneft (oil, gas)
- Tatneft (oil, gas)
- Transneft (oil and gas equipment)
- UC Rusal (aluminum)
- Uralkali (specialized chemicals)
Searchable List of Russia’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from the Russian Federation during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value and, under the YOY column, the percentage increase or decrease from 2020 to 2021.
|Rank||Russia's Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||YOY|
|2||Processed petroleum oils||$69,936,820,000||+54.2%|
|3||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$17,560,283,000||+41.7%|
|5||Iron/non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)||$9,176,394,000||+89%|
|11||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$5,307,219,000||+108.5%|
|15||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$3,848,080,000||-17.1%|
|16||Iron ores, concentrates||$3,795,951,000||+91.9%|
|20||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$2,663,938,000||+59.2%|
|21||Whole fish (frozen)||$2,407,817,000||+1.7%|
|23||Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)||$1,932,788,000||+67.5%|
|26||Iron or steel scrap||$1,787,638,000||+40.4%|
|28||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$1,638,232,000||+553.4%|
|29||Iron ore reduced products||$1,591,614,000||+71.9%|
|33||Rubber tires (new)||$1,352,453,000||+21.8%|
|35||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$1,301,304,000||+31%|
|36||Copper ores, concentrates||$1,250,913,000||+88.4%|
|37||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$1,185,509,000||+92.6%|
|39||Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$1,119,332,000||+157.5%|
|40||Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$1,112,504,000||+30.6%|
|41||Nickel matte, oxide sinters||$1,078,437,000||+1.5%|
|42||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$1,074,867,000||+476.4%|
|43||Asphalt/petroleum bitumen mixes||$1,070,136,000||+398.9%|
|45||Nuclear reactors, fuel elements||$1,033,825,000||+19%|
|49||Precious metal ores, concentrates||$927,916,000||+21.8%|
|51||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$863,725,000||+18.5%|
|52||Uncoated kraft paper||$849,087,000||+30.7%|
|53||Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes||$835,220,000||+66.7%|
|55||Medication mixes in dosage||$809,288,000||+16.8%|
|58||Iron or steel tubes, pipes||$748,766,000||+5.5%|
|60||Flat-rolled other alloy steel products||$733,328,000||+64.4%|
|61||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$733,308,000||+34.9%|
|62||Cold-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$697,621,000||+76.7%|
|64||Carbon including carbon blacks||$676,939,000||+54.5%|
|65||Particle board, other ligneous materials||$676,309,000||+103.6%|
|66||Radar, radio communication items||$676,177,000||+208.3%|
|67||Dried shelled vegetables||$639,408,000||+100.7%|
|68||Alloy steel bars, rods||$626,446,000||+53%|
|70||Fish fillets, pieces||$612,927,000||+44.6%|
|71||Alloy steel ingots||$604,208,000||+218.1%|
|73||Miscellaneous oil cakes||$577,566,000||+33.5%|
|74||Lead ores, concentrates||$566,799,000||+15.8%|
|75||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$555,957,000||+23.6%|
|80||Iron or non-alloy steel angles, shapes, sections||$497,222,000||+40.9%|
|81||Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues||$488,248,000||+107.7%|
|82||Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust||$487,083,000||+0.4%|
|85||Ligneous fiberboard including wood||$480,103,000||+50.5%|
|86||Liquid pumps and elevators||$471,114,000||+22.6%|
|87||Phone devices including smartphones||$467,274,000||+27.9%|
|88||Wood carpentry, builders' joinery||$463,774,000||+74.6%|
|91||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$438,363,000||+38.4%|
|92||Petroleum oil residues||$437,824,000||+76.1%|
|94||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$431,899,000||+103.4%|
|95||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$425,543,000||+34.3%|
|96||Vinyl chloride polymers||$423,083,000||+75.6%|
|97||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$416,468,000||+24.4%|
|100||Special purpose vehicles||$407,577,000||-1.6%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$368.3 billion or roughly 74.9% by value for all products exported from the Russian Federation during 2021.
In macroeconomic terms, Russia’s total exported goods represent 11.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($4.447 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 11.1% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2021 compares to 8.3% one year earlier. Those percentages suggest Russia’s relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for its total economic performance–albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Russia’s unemployment rate was 4.88% at November 2021, down from an average 5.783% for 2020 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Related Read: Russia’s Top 100 Consumer Product Exports
See also Russia’s Top 10 Imports, Russia Top Trading Partners, Top Russian Trade Balances and Russia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook: Country Profiles. Accessed on May 13, 2022
Forbes 2017 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 13, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on May 13, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 13, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 13, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 13, 2022
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on May 13, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on May 13, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Russia. Accessed on May 13, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on May 13, 2022