Afghanistan’s Top Exports 2021

Afghan flag

A landlocked nation in south-central Asia, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan shipped an estimated US$1.48 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2021. That dollar amount reflects a 77.5% increase from $831.9 million 5 years earlier in 2017.

Year over year, the value of Afghanistan’s exported goods fell by -19% from $1.82 billion in 2020.

Afghanistan’s 5 biggest exported products by value in 2021 are fresh or dried grapes, figs and dates, raw cotton, miscellaneous nuts, and coal including solid fuels made from coal. Added together, the 5 most valuable Afghani exported goods represent just over half (51.2%) of the Asian country’s total shipments by dollar value.

Afghanistan’s Main Trading Partners

The latest available country-specific data from 2020 shows that 98% of products exported from Afghanistan were bought by importers in: India (47.5% of the global total), Pakistan (34.5%), China (3.6%), Turkey (2.9%), United Arab Emirates (2.7%), Iran (1.69%), Iraq (1.68%), Germany (1.4%), Saudi Arabia (1.1%), United States (0.35%), Kazakhstan (0.34%) and Tajikistan (0.28%).

From a continental perspective, 97.1% of Afghanistan’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 2.2% were sold to importers in Europe.

Tinier percentages went to North America (0.5%), Oceania led by Australia (0.1%) and Africa (0.03%).

Given Afghanistan’s population of 33 million people, its total $1.48 billion in 2021 exports translates to about $45 for every resident in the economically depressed Asian nation. That dollar metric exceeds the average $30 per resident one year earlier during 2020.

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Afghan global shipments during 2021, at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Afghanistan.

  1. Fruits, nuts: US$602.3 million (40.8% of total exports)
  2. Cotton: $166 million (11.2%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: $162.3 million (11%)
  4. Vegetables: $149.2 million (10.1%)
  5. Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $94.7 million (6.4%)
  6. Coffee, tea, spices: $79.8 million (5.4%)
  7. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $56 million (3.8%)
  8. Oil seeds: $32.9 million (2.2%)
  9. Iron, steel: $30.7 million (2.1%)
  10. Textile floor coverings: $21.2 million (1.4%)

Afghanistan’s top 10 exports accounted for 94.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Mineral fuels including oil represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 274.3% from 2020 to 2021. That product category was propelled by greater international sales for Afghanistan’s exports of crude oil and coal.

In second place for improving export sales was the salt, sulphur, stone and cement product category via a 196.6% expansion.

Afghanistan’s shipments of iron and steel posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 70.9%.

The leading decliner among Afghanistan’s top 10 export categories was vegetables, thanks to a -21.6% drop year over year.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, fresh or dried grapes represent Afghanistan ’s most valuable exported product accounting for 13.1% of the country’s total. In second place were figs and dates (11.3%) trailed by raw cotton (11.2%), miscellaneous nuts (8.1%), coal including solid fuels made from coal (7.6%), natural gums, resins and balsams (6.4%), crude oil (3.4%), shelled dried leguminous vegetables (also 3.4%), miscellaneous fresh fruits (3.1%) then fresh or chilled tomatoes (2.9%).

Products Creating Afghanistan’s Best Trade Surpluses

The following types of Afghan 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.

  1. Fruits, nuts: US$520.3 million (Up by 65.7% since 2020)
  2. Cotton: $164 million (Up by 54.5%)
  3. Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $87.3 million (Down by -12.8%)
  4. Vegetables: $49.1 million (Reversing a -$58.3 million deficit)
  5. Coffee, tea, spices: $25 million (Up by 827.1%)
  6. Oil seeds: $13.8 million (Reversing an -$8.2 million deficit)
  7. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $5.3 million (Up by 42.2%)
  8. Textile floor coverings: $4.3 million (Reversing a -$63.5 million deficit)
  9. Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $4.1 million (Down by -9.4%)
  10. Ores, slag, ash: $3.6 million (Up by 1,174%)

Traditionally, Afghanistan has posted highly positive net exports in the international trade of grapes and figs, pistachios, almonds and apricots. In turn, these cashflows indicate Afghanistan’s strong competitive advantages under the fruits and nuts product category.

Products Generating Afghanistan’s Biggest Trade Deficits

Overall Afghanistan incurred a -$2.38 billion trade deficit for 2021, down by -65.5% from -$6.9 billion in red ink one year earlier during 2020.

Below are exports from Afghanistan that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Afghanistan’s goods trail Afghan importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -US$355 million (Up by 20.4% since 2020)
  2. Milling products, malt, starches: -$323.6 million (Down by -43.8%)
  3. Pharmaceuticals: -$254.4 million (Up by 2%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$235.7 million (Down by -61.6%)
  5. Vehicles: -$221.2 million (Down by -54.8%)
  6. Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$180.2 million (Down by -39.6%)
  7. Cereals: -$140.1 million (Down by -53.3%)
  8. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$128.5 million (Down by -58.4%)
  9. Machinery including computers: -$128 million (Down by -67.9%)
  10. Rubber, rubber articles: -$118.9 million (Down by -38.2%)

Afghanistan has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits notably for animal or vegetable fats, oils or waxes, and milling products, malt and starches.

Afghan Export Companies

Not one Afghan corporation ranks among the Forbes Global 2000.

Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Afghanistan. Selected examples are shown below.

  • Afghanistan International Bank (commercial bank)
  • AZ Corporation (construction materials)
  • Khyber Afghan Airlines (cargo airliner)
  • Spinzar Cotton Company (cotton)
  • Watan Group (oil, mining and telecom conglomerate)


In macroeconomic terms, Afghanistan’s total exported goods represent 1.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($80.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 1.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 1.6% in 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Afghanistan’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Afghanistan’s average unemployment rate was forecast to be 13% for 2021, up from an average 11.2% in 2020 according to Trading Economics.

Afghanistan’s capital city is Kabul.

See also Pakistan’s Top Trading Partners, India’s Top Trading Partners, Top Cotton Exports by Country and Grapes Exports by Country

Research Sources:
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on July 13, 2022

Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 13, 2022

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity)

. Accessed on July 13, 2022

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 13, 2022

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 13, 2022

Wikipedia, Afghanistan. Accessed on July 13, 2022

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 13, 2022

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Afghanistan. Accessed on July 13, 2022

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 13, 2022

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