That dollar amount reflects a 6.6% increase from $12 billion worth of shipments during 2018.
Year over year, the value of Sri Lankan exports fell by -4.2% from $13.3 billion in 2021.
An island country located in the Indian Ocean considered a South Asian nation, Sri Lanka is located immediately off the southeastern coast of the Asian economic powerhouse India.
Generally, a wide range of clothing dominates many of Sri Lanka’s most valuable exported goods.
Sri Lanka’s Biggest Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 68.4% of products exported from Sri Lanka were bought by importers in: United States of America (26% of the Sri Lankan total), United Kingdom (7.6%), India (6.7%), Germany (5.8%), Italy (5%), Netherlands (3.4%), Canada (2.8%), United Arab Emirates (2.7%), Belgium (2.4%), France (2.02%), Australia (1.99%) and mainland China (1.98%).
The latest available country-specific data shows that 66.3% of products exported from Sri Lanka were bought by importers in: United States (24.8% of the global total), United Kingdom (8.9%), India (6.1%), Germany (5.7%), Italy (4.5%), Belgium (2.93%), Netherlands (2.87%), mainland China (2.4%), Canada (2.11%), Turkey (2.1%), United Arab Emirates (2%) and Japan (1.9%).
From a continental perspective, 34.2% of Sri Lanka’s exports by value was delivered to European countries while 30.3% was sold to importers in North America. Sri Lanka shipped another 28.6% worth of goods to Asia.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (2.4%), Oceania (2.3%) led by Australia and New Zealand, then Latin America (2.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Sri Lanka’s population of 22.4 million people, its total $12.8 billion in 2022 exports translates to roughly $570 for every resident in the South Asian country. That dollar metric falls below the average $600 per capita for 2021.
Sri Lanka’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Sri Lankan global shipments during 2022. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Sri Lanka.
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$3.4 billion (26.5% of total exports)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $2.1 billion (16.4%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $1.6 billion (12.3%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $1 billion (8%)
- Gems, precious metals: $399.8 million (3.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $373.7 million (2.9%)
- Fish: $290.8 million (2.3%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $283.2 million (2.2%)
- Paper yarn, woven fabric: $211.7 million (1.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $210.5 million (1.6%)
By value, Sri Lanka’s top 10 exports generated over three-quarters (77%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, gaining 15.7% from 2021 to 2022. Unstrung precious or semi-precious stones was a major factor for that increase.
In second place for improving export sales was mineral fuels including oil via a 11.8% advance.
Sri Lanka’s shipments of unknitted and non-crocheted clothing or accessories recorded the third-fastest gain in value, up by 6.2%.
The leading decliner among Sri Lanka’s top 10 export categories was the coffee, tea and spices grouping, dragged down by a -14% year-over-year reduction. Export sales of coffee from Sri Lanka fell by -11.3% from 2021.
The above information is at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level.
Drilling down to the more granular 4-digit HTS codes, tea including flavored varieties represent Sri Lanka ’s most valuable exported product at 9.7% of the island country’s total.
In second place was women’s knitted or crocheted underwear and pajamas (5.3%) trailed by unknitted and non-crocheted bras and corsets (5%), knitted or crocheted t-shirts and vests (4.8%), unknitted and non-crocheted women’s clothing (4%), unknit and non-crocheted women’s clothing (3.8%), unknitted and non-crocheted men’s suits or trousers (3.4%), used or retread rubber tires (3.3%), knitted or crocheted gloves and mitts (2.9%), then men’s knitted or crocheted underwear and pajamas (2.4%)..
Sri Lanka’s Biggest Product Trade Surpluses
The following types of Sri Lankan 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.
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$3.3 billion (Up by 1.4% since 2021)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $2 billion (Up by 7.2%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $1.4 billion (Down by -15.2%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $618.7 million (Down by -1.6%)
- Fish: $231.7 million (Up by 9.9%)
- Gems, precious metals: $196 million (Up by 2%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $187.3 million (Down by -17.3%)
- Paper yarn, woven fabric: $186.6 million (Down by -10.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $182 million (Up by 18.9%)
- Toys, games: $90.5 million (Up by 50.3%)
Sri Lanka has highly positive net exports particularly in the international trade of knitted or crocheted clothing and accessories. In turn, these cashflows indicate Sri Lanka’s strong competitive advantages under that product category.
Sri Lanka’s Worst Product Trade Deficits
Sri Lanka incurred an overall -US$4.5 billion trade deficit in 2022, recording a -44.6% reduction from -$8.2 billion in red ink one year earlier for 2021.
Below are exports from Sri Lanka that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Sri Lanka’s goods trail Sri Lankan importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$3.6 billion (Up by 14.4% since 2021)
- Machinery including computers: -$851.9 million (Down by -47.2%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: -$757.2 million (Down by -22.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$665.2 million (Down by -19.4%)
- Cotton: -$643 million (Down by -2.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$610.8 million (Down by -55.2%)
- Cereals: -$582.4 million (Up by 12.7%)
- Iron, steel: -$402.8 million (Down by -62.8%)
- Paper, paper items: -$382.7 million (Down by -7.8%)
- Manmade filaments: -$372.8 million (Down by -6.1%)
Sri Lanka has negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels category, notably for petroleum oils (both refined and crude), coal and petroleum gas.
Sri Lankan Export Companies
Not one Sri Lankan corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exporters from Sri Lanka. Although relatively smaller companies compared to global leaders, selected examples are shown below.
- Ceylon Biscuits Limited (biscuits)
- Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (petroleum, natural gas)
- Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (tobacco, food, beverages)
- Colombo Dockyard (ships, boats)
- Daintee (confectionery, other food products)
- Dilmah (tea)
- Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka (food, beverages)
- Micro Cars (automobiles)
- Pelwatte Sugar Industries PLC (sugar, milk, alcohol)
- Rainco (umbrellas, mosquito nets, rainwear)
In macroeconomic terms, Sri Lanka’s total exported goods represent 4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2022 ($319.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2022 compares to 4.1% for 2021. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Sri Lanka’s total economic performance, albeit based on a relatively short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Sri Lanka’s unemployment rate averaged 5.25% for 2022, up from an average 5.1% in 2021 according to metrics from the International Monetary Fund.
Sri Lanka’s administrative capital city is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, while the island country’s commercial capital is Colombo.
See also Sri Lanka’s Top 10 Imports, Tea Exports by Country Plus Average Prices, Top US Trading Partners, United Kingdom’s Top Trading Partners and India’s Top Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook report on South Asia: Sri Lanka. Accessed on May 26, 2023
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 26, 2023
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 26, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 26, 2023
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 26, 2023
United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade . Accessed on May 26, 2023
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on May 26, 2023
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Sri Lanka. Accessed on May 26, 2023
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on May 26, 2023