Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Serbian dinar appreciated by 7.3% against the US dollar since 2016 and increased by 2% from 2019 to 2020. Serbia’s stronger local currency makes its exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers during 2020.
The latest available country-specific data shows that almost two-thirds (65.7%) of products exported from Serbia were bought by importers in: Germany (12.9% of the global total), Italy (8.4%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (7%), Romania (6.5%), Hungary (4.7%), Russia (4.7%), Montenegro (4.2%), Czech Republic (3.7%), North Macedonia (3.7%), Croatia (3.3%), Poland (3.3%) and Bulgaria (3.2%).
Given that Serbia is landlocked, it will come as no surprise that Serbian exports are highly concentrated with 89.2% of Serbia’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 6.1% were sold to importers in Asia. Smaller percentages went to North America (2.3%), Africa (2%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.3%) then Oceania led by Australia (0.1%).
Given Serbia’s population of 6.94 million people, its total $19.4 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $2,800 for every resident in the southeastern European country.
Serbia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Serbian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Serbia.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$3.1 billion (15.7% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $1.5 billion (7.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $1 billion (5.2%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $895.7 million (4.6%)
- Vehicles: $795.9 million (4.1%)
- Cereals: $752.8 million (3.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $736.6 million (3.8%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $729.9 million (3.8%)
- Iron, steel: $649.7 million (3.3%)
- Copper: $533.5 million (2.7%)
Serbia’s top 10 exports accounted for 54.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Cereals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 27.3% from 2019 to 2020 propelled by higher international sales of corn, wheat and barley. In second place for improving export sales was fruits and nuts via a 21.1% gain. Serbia’s shipments of plastics plus articles made from plastic posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 5.3%.
The leading decliner among Serbia’s top 10 export categories was iron and steel thanks to a -28.8% drop year over year.
At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Serbia’s most valuable exported good is insulated wire and cable. In second place are exported new rubber tires trailed by new rubber tires, corn, electric motors and generators, frozen fruits and nuts, cars, refined copper, hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products then medication mixes in dosages.
The following types of Serbian 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.
- Cereals: US$723 million (Up by 27.8% since 2019)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $497.5 million (Down by -8.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $486.5 million (Up by 2.1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $443.4 million (Up by 4.1%)
- Fruits, nuts: $435.3 million (Up by 16.4%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $212 million (Down by -12.5%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $204.5 million (Up by 234.5%)
- Copper: $186.2 million (Down by -42.4%)
- Oil seeds: $179.8 million (Up by 55.8%)
- Footwear: $164.9 million (Down by -13.2%)
Serbia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of corn and to a much lesser extent wheat and barley. In turn, these cashflows indicate Serbia’s strong competitive advantages under the cereals category.
Serbia incurred a -$6.8 billion trade deficit in 2020, down -3% from the -$7 billion in red ink for 2019.
Below are exports from Serbia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Serbia’s goods trail Serbian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.5 billion (Down by -33.6% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.2 billion (Up by 48.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$912.3 million (Up by 38.8%)
- Vehicles: -$529.6 million (Down by -19.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$495.4 million (Down by -5.3%)
- Other chemical goods: -$257.1 million (Up by 9.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$230 million (Up by 28.1%)
- Perfumes, cosmetics: -$207.8 million (Up by 13.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$187.2 million (Down by -51.9%)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$168.3 million (Down by -70.4%)
Serbia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for products related to mineral fuels notably petroleum oils, petroleum gases and coke or semi-coke.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Serbia’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Serbia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.
Serbian Export Companies
Given that Serbia is an emerging economy, it should come as no surprise that not one Serbian corporation appears on the Forbes Global 2000 list.
Wikipedia does outline some smaller-scale Serbian export companies. Selected examples are shown below.
- Estonia Piano Factory (pianos)
- Liviko (vodka, other alcoholic beverages)
- Narva Oil Plant (shale oil)
- Rakvere Lihakombinaat (meat products)
- Rexer Ltd (automobiles)
- Saku Brewery (beer, cider, soft drinks, water)
- Tartu Mill AS (grains)
- Tondi Elektroonika (hearing aids)
In macroeconomic terms, Serbia’s total exported goods represent 14.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($130.7 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 14.9% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 15.1% for 2019. This suggests a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Serbia’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Serbia’s unemployment rate was 9.9% at January 2021, up from 9.7% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Serbia’s capital city is Belgrade.
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Europe: Serbia. Accessed on March 11, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 11, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 11, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 11, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 11, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 11, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 11, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Serbia. Accessed on March 11, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 11, 2021
Wikipedia, Serbia. Accessed on March 11, 2021