Industries are an integral part of any country’s economy. They serve as a valuable source of job creation, provide rapid income, maximize resources, meet the needs of the people, establish self-sustained growth, allow foreign exchanges, and help ensure the nation’s security. Needless to say, industries vary per country, given the difference in topography, climate, population, and technology.
Bulgaria, one of the oldest countries in Europe, has its own set of industries that fuels its economy. Situated at the southeastern corner of the Balkan region, it’s primarily powered by the industry sector (mining, metallurgy, machine building, and industrial production) agriculture, and tourism. Here, let’s know more about these industries and their significant contributions to Bulgaria.
Bulgaria’s industry sector primarily depends on machine building, metallurgy, and mining. Being highly skilled in engineering products, the country is responsible for producing nearly 10% of the globe’s hydraulic machinery.
In terms of metallurgy, iron and steel metal processing started after World War II and has remained operational since then. One of the biggest reserves and the largest metallurgical plant is situated in Kremikovtsi, northeast of the capital Sofia. It’s where bulk of steel and pig iron production takes place, with Stomana and Debelt, serving as additional metallurgical bases. Bulgaria leads the Balkans in terms of steel and steel items production per capita.
Meanwhile, Bulgaria is also the largest producer of other processed metals like zinc and iron, ranking first in Eastern Europe. Plovdiv, Novi Iskar, and Kardzhali have the largest refineries for zinc and lead, Pirdop for copper, and Shumen for aluminum.
Bulgaria also boasts large deposits of other metallic minerals, like gold ore, chromium ore, and manganese ore. Less-valuable minerals like gypsum, dolomite, barite, rock salt, asbestos, and kaolin are also abundant in the country.
Not to mention that the country is also home to around 40 coal basins. These contain three billion tons of lignite or brown coal, mainly used to power most of Bulgaria’s most of the manufacturing industries. With all that, mining serves as one of the primary sources of export earnings for Bulgaria.
Apart from metal, Bulgaria produces nuclear energy, caustic soda, tobacco, textiles, military hardware, food, and sugar. Several factories and plants in the country also manufactures transportation equipments, such as ones in Burgas and Dryanovo (trains), Dupnitsa (trolleys), Shumen (trucks), Lovech (automotive), Sofia (trams), Varna, Plovdiv, Ruse, and Pernik (ships). Munitions manufacturers operate in central Bulgaria, which includes Sopot, Karlovo, and Kazanlak.
In recent years, production of electronics and electrical equipment has picked up, with computers, telephones, CDs, household appliances, and scientific and medical equipment being manufactured. Exports in this field were primarily composed of computers, components, and consumer electronic products.
Bulgaria also produces chemical products and rubbers, with centers in Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv, Devnya, and Dimitrovgrad. On the other hand, food processing and beverage production are widely spread throughout the country but can be defined in three main regions.
Northern Bulgaria, comprised of Lyaskovets, Veliko Tŭrnovo, and Gorna Oryahovitsa, specializes on meat processing, sugar refining, and canning. The northwest region, which includes Dolna Mitropolia, Cherven Bryag, and Pleven) focuses on vegetable oil processing, poultry processing, paste products, canning, and sugar refining. Going south, the towns of Pazardzhik, Krichim, Pŭrvomay, Asenovgrad, and Plovdiv serve as vital locations for tobacco processing and canning.
Another primary industry that bolsters the Bulgarian economy is agriculture. About three-fifths of the sown land is allotted to cereal crops, with wheat being the most significant field crop, followed by barley, maize (corn), rye, oats, rice, and soybeans.
Meanwhile, sunflower is grown mainly in the north and is the chief crop utilized for oil production. Its pulp is then used for producing cattle feed. Other industrial crops include sugar beets (also grown in the north) and high-quality Oriental type tobacco (grown in the south).
Top vegetable crops and exports include tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Yet, Bulgaria also produces other important crops like cabbage, potatoes, plums, apples, cherries, watermelons, strawberries, and grapes used for creating wine, one of the country’s leading export items.
Aside from farming, Bulgaria farmers also raise livestock, such as sheep, cattle, pig, buffaloes, and poultry. Yogurt, milk, cow and sheep cheese are the main dairy products. Starting in the 2000s, the fishing farming and fish breeding industry has also grown and with the improving conditions of the Danube River and the Black Sea, it may see more expansion in the future.
Bulgaria’s tourism sector started experiencing tremendous growth during the 1960s. After some decline in the 1990s, it sprung back in the 21st century. In 2000, the country recorded nearly 5 million visitors, growing to 8.37 million in 2010, and 12.55 million in 2019.
Tourists from Romania, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and Greece make up about 50% of the total number of foreign tourists in the country and enjoy many of its stunning travel destinations. Most of the foreign visitors are enticed by the country’s awe-inspiring landscapes, well-preserved cultural sites and historical landmarks, and the peace and tranquility offered by rural and mountain areas, serving as a respite from the city jam.
Some of the famous attractions in Bulgaria include the 10th century Rila Monastery, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Krushuna Waterfalls, the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, Plovdiv Roman Theater, Pirin National Park, and the Tsarevets Fortress.
Of course, Bulgaria is also internationally known for its coastal resorts like the Sunny Beach, Sozopol, Albena, and its winter resorts like Borovetz, Chepelare, Bansko, and Pamporovo.
Tourism is an important sector that’s driving Bulgaria’s national economy, accounting a considerable part in the country’s GDP and employment. New local and international investors are also backing up tourism and hospitality projects for being an ideal location, not only for leisure travelers but for business travelers as well.
All these primary enterprises are vital for Bulgaria’s economic advancement. Yet, other sectors big to small, such as energy, construction, services, forestry, infrastructure, labor, major private corporations to small homebased businesses, all have their vital contributions for the country. While it’s growth is the slowest in the EU, Bulgaria is a promising nation that may rise with proper restructuring and revitalization.