Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Russian ruble has depreciated by -7.5% against the US dollar since 2016 and declined by -11.4% from 2019 to 2020. 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 2020 were crude oil, refined petroleum oils, gold, coal and wheat. In aggregate, those major exports accounted for 46.6% of overall exports sales from Russia. That percentage suggests a relatively concentrated range of exported goods.
Russia is the world leader for exporting wheat and ranks among the top for global sales of crude oil, refined petroleum oils and coal.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 63.4% of products exported from Russia were bought by importers in: China (14.6% of the global total), Netherlands (7.4%), United Kingdom (6.9%), Germany (5.5%), Belarus (4.8%), Turkey (4.6%), Kazakhstan (4.2%), South Korea (3.7%), United States (3.3%), Italy (3%), Poland (2.8%) and Japan (2.7%).
From a continental perspective, 49.3% of Russia’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 42.2% were sold to importers in Asia. Russia shipped another 3.7% worth of goods to North America. Smaller percentages went to Africa (3.5%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1%) then Oceania led by New Zealand and Australia (0.1%).
Given Russia’s population of 146.8 million people, its total $335.5 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $2,300 for every resident in the vast Eurasian country.
Russia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Russian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Russia.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$141.3 billion (42.1% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $30.4 billion (9%)
- Iron, steel: $16 billion (4.8%)
- Cereals: $9.5 billion (2.8%)
- Machinery including computers: $8.3 billion (2.5%)
- Wood: $8.2 billion (2.5%)
- Fertilizers: $7 billion (2.1%)
- Copper: $5.6 billion (1.7%)
- Aluminum: $5.5 billion (1.6%)
- Fish: $4.6 billion (1.4%)
Russia’s top 10 exports accounted for 70.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 98.9% from 2019 to 2020 propelled by greater international sales of gold and platinum. In second place for improving export sales was cereals via a 20.4% gain led by wheat and barley. Russia’s shipments of copper posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 8.1%.
The leading decliner among Russia’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -36% drop year over year. That decrease traces back to lower revenues for crude and processed petroleum oils as well as gas and coal.
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.
Overall Russia generated a $103.9 billion trade surplus during 2020, a -41.9% decline from the $179 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$139.6 billion (Down by -36.2% since 2019)
- Gems, precious metals: $29.6 billion (Up by 108.3%)
- Iron, steel: $12.3 billion (Down by -6.4%)
- Cereals: $9.2 billion (Up by 20.5%)
- Wood: $7.6 billion (Down by -4.9%)
- Fertilizers: $6.9 billion (Down by -16.8%)
- Aluminum: $4.4 billion (Down by -5.4%)
- Copper: $4.1 billion (Down by -2.4%)
- Fish: $3 billion (Up by 3.5%)
- Nickel: $2.9 billion (Up by 1.7%)
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.
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$34.8 billion (Up by 1.5% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$25.8 billion (Up by 6.8%)
- Vehicles: -$15.7 billion (Down by -21.5%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$9.8 billion (Down by -26%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$6.6 billion (Up by 21.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$5.6 billion (Down by -18.2%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$5.1 billion (Up by 2.7%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$3.6 billion (Up by 1.2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$2.8 billion (Down by -16.5%)
- Footwear: -$2.6 billion (Down by -15.4%)
Russia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery including computers.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Russia’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market, but also represent key opportunities for Russia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Russian Export Companies
Almost 30 Russian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. The following companies are selected examples of leading companies headquartered in Russia.
- Gazprom (oil, gas)
- Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel (iron, steel)
- Mechel (iron, steel)
- Severstal (iron, steel)
- Sistema (telecommunications)
- Surgutneftegas (oil, gas)
Wikipedia also lists large international trade players from Russia.
- Alrosa (diversified metals)
- LukOil (oil, gas)
- Norilsk Nickel (diversified metals)
- Novatek (oil, gas)
- Novolipetsk Steel (iron, steel)
- Rosneft (oil, gas)
- Tatneft (oil, gas)
- Transneft (oil and gas equipment)
- UC Rusal (aluminum)
- Uralkali (specialized chemicals)
Searchable List of Russia’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from the Russian Federation during 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2019.
|Rank||Russia's Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||Change|
|2||Processed petroleum oils||$45,122,190,000||-32.5%|
|4||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$12,288,681,000||-23.1%|
|8||Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)||$4,846,727,000||-20.4%|
|9||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$4,642,493,000||+12.2%|
|14||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$2,546,254,000||+3.4%|
|17||Whole fish (frozen)||$2,366,417,000||-5.2%|
|19||Iron ores, concentrates||$1,977,715,000||-5.4%|
|22||Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)||$1,706,144,000||-61.7%|
|23||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$1,673,685,000||+5.8%|
|25||Iron or steel scrap||$1,270,697,000||+8.4%|
|27||Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)||$1,154,891,000||+1.2%|
|28||Rubber tires (new)||$1,109,195,000||-7.2%|
|29||Nickel matte, oxide sinters||$1,062,970,000||+2.3%|
|31||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$1,000,887,000||-0.8%|
|34||Iron ore reduced products||$926,122,000||-13%|
|36||Nuclear reactors, fuel elements||$868,760,000||-2.3%|
|38||Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$851,767,000||+8.8%|
|41||Precious metal ores, concentrates||$757,809,000||-6.4%|
|42||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$730,735,000||+2.2%|
|43||Iron or steel tubes, pipes||$709,688,000||-9.1%|
|44||Medication mixes in dosage||$693,038,000||+32.9%|
|46||Uncoated kraft paper||$650,448,000||+8.4%|
|47||Copper ores, concentrates||$641,444,000||+178%|
|48||Iron and steel tubes, pipes||$617,803,000||-25.4%|
|49||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$616,160,000||-13.5%|
|53||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$543,783,000||-0.5%|
|54||Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes||$501,265,000||+5.6%|
|56||Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust||$489,855,000||+14.6%|
|57||Lead ores, concentrates||$488,918,000||-12.9%|
|61||Sugar (cane or beet)||$461,365,000||+73.4%|
|66||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$449,702,000||+6.3%|
|67||Flat-rolled other alloy steel products||$446,001,000||-12.3%|
|69||Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods||$434,688,000||-5.7%|
|71||Miscellaneous oil cakes||$432,329,000||+4.2%|
|73||Fish fillets, pieces||$423,703,000||+8.1%|
|76||Special purpose vehicles||$414,137,000||+13.5%|
|77||Alloy steel bars, rods||$409,559,000||-12.3%|
|79||Printed books, brochures||$395,260,000||+6.8%|
|80||Cold-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$394,799,000||-23%|
|81||Liquid pumps and elevators||$384,339,000||+23.5%|
|82||Other measuring/testing machines||$379,219,000||-2.7%|
|84||Phone system devices||$365,882,000||-34.1%|
|85||Newsprint (rolls or sheets)||$357,340,000||-35.5%|
|86||Iron or non-alloy steel angles, shapes, sections||$353,101,000||-7.8%|
|87||Electric motors, generators||$347,585,000||+26.4%|
|89||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$334,789,000||-2.5%|
|90||Other organic cleaning preparations||$334,080,000||+7.9%|
|91||Aluminum plates, sheets, strips||$333,656,000||-7.1%|
|92||Particle board, other ligneous materials||$332,216,000||-9.1%|
|95||Dried shelled vegetables||$321,783,000||-10.3%|
|96||Ligneous fiberboard including of wood||$319,042,000||-6.2%|
|98||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$316,734,000||-24.2%|
|100||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$315,719,000||+17.9%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$259.1 billion or roughly 77.2% by value for all products exported from the Russian Federation during 2020.
In macroeconomic terms, Russia’s total exported goods represent 8.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($4.022 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 8.3% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2020 compares to 9.7% one year earlier. This seems to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Russia’s 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 5.8% at January 2021, up from an average 4.623% according to the International Monetary Fund.
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 9, 2021
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 9, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on May 9, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 9, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 9, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 9, 2021
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on December 20, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on May 9, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Russia. Accessed on May 9, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on May 9, 2021