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Unveiling Montenegro’s export sector: Industries, dependencies, and current trends

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Last year, nearly a third of Montenegro’s exports were electricity, largely due to ample rainfall and the shutdown of major consumers in the economy. Another significant export was aluminum, primarily imported and then processed with alloys, as local production ceased. A small portion of exports included vodka, brandy, cured meats, and wine, with the most complex domestic product being medicines from Belgrade-based Hemofarm.

Among the exported goods were bauxite, lead, zinc ores, and coal. Montenegro heavily relies on exporting basic timber products and firewood, mainly to countries that prioritize forest preservation.

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According to data from Monstat on last year’s trade, Montenegro’s economy appears underdeveloped and heavily reliant on weather conditions.

Montenegro had exports worth 674 million euros last year, while imports totaled 3.8 billion euros, resulting in an export-import coverage of only 17.7%. Compared to 2022, exports decreased by 26 million euros, while imports increased by 270 million euros.

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A significant portion of the export dependency on weather conditions is evident in the electricity sector, which accounted for 30% of exports at 207 million euros, thanks to favorable hydrological conditions and record production at the Pljevlja Thermal Power Plant. However, reduced operations at domestic major consumers like the Aluminum Plant and the Steelworks also contributed. Electricity buyers were sought internationally, with significant amounts going to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, among others.

The largest domestic electricity consumer, the Aluminum Plant, drastically reduced its raw aluminum production by 90% at the beginning of 2022 due to the disagreement over new electricity prices. As a result, its production was completely halted in May last year. Consequently, the Aluminum Plant now imports raw aluminum, processes it into alloys, and then exports it.

Aluminum alloy exports amounted to 71 million euros last year, while raw aluminum imports were valued at 47 million euros. A year earlier in 2022, aluminum exports were worth 170 million euros, with imports at 140 million euros.

Pharmaceuticals from Hemofarm’s Podgorica factory, including infusion solutions, ophthalmic products, and cephalosporin antibiotics, were exported for 41.4 million euros, mostly to Serbia.

The Beluga vodka factory, established in Niksic in April last year, quickly became one of Montenegro’s significant exporters. Vodka exports accounted for 21 million euros of the total 23.8 million euros, with the remaining amount attributed to brandy and similar drinks from Plantaža. Most vodka and brandy were exported to Lithuania, the United States, Israel, Latvia, and other countries.

The export of ores totaled 22.7 million euros, thanks to new concessionaires of the Bauxite Mine and the Lead and Zinc Mine near Pljevlja. Bauxite exports amounted to 7.1 million euros, lead to 4.1 million euros, and zinc to 11.2 million euros, with Poland, Serbia, and Luxembourg being the top importing countries.

Montenegro exported coal worth 12 million euros, mostly to Serbia. Due to maintenance at the Pljevlja Thermal Power Plant, which is the primary coal consumer, for seven to eight months next year, the mine may face revenue challenges. Consequently, the company management has been seeking international buyers for coal.

The export of cured and smoked meats amounted to 20.8 million euros, primarily to Serbia and Kosovo, with some reaching Germany and Sweden.

Wine exports reached 13.4 million euros, distributed across 35 countries, with Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo being the top importers. Montenegrin wine even reached markets as far as Japan, Swaziland, and Australia.

The largest beer producer in Montenegro, Nikšićka Trebjesa, mainly focuses on domestic sales and exports to neighboring countries due to its acquisition by the international StarBev group.

Processed meat exports amounted to 6.2 million euros, with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia being the main importers.

Montenegro also exported small quantities of dried vegetables, fresh fruits, cleaning agents, explosives, paper labels, and stone for monuments.

The timber export industry, valued at 49.7 million euros, primarily exported lumber and firewood to Albania and Kosovo, both of which implemented a ten-year ban on logging in their forests in 2016.

Lastly, Montenegro “exported” goods worth around a hundred million euros, including re-exported machinery, vehicles, airplanes, and petroleum products, as well as metal coins to Austria and jewelry to Turkey. These transactions were likely due to goods being imported into Montenegro and then exported or returned to their countries of origin.

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