Situated on the Arabian Peninsula within Western Asia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shipped an estimated 176.5 billion dollars worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects a minus 1.3 percent decrease since 2016 and a minus 29.9 percent drop from 2019 to 2020.
The top 3 product categories for Saudi Arabian exports are mineral fuels including oil, plastics including both materials and items made from plastic, and organic chemicals represent about 90 percent of all Saudi shipments by value.
The latest data prorated from 2020 shows that almost two-thirds or 64.8 percent of products exported from Saudi Arabia were bought by importers in China accounting for 17.6 percent of Saudi’s global total, the United Arab Emirates with 11.1 percent, India with 6.8 percent, Singapore with 6.2 percent, Turkey with 3.9 percent, Egypt with 3.5 percent, Kuwait with 3.1 percent, Belgium with 2.9 percent, Jordan with 2.6 percent, Malaysia with 2.6 percent, the United States with 2.5 percent and Yemen with 2 percent.
From a continental perspective, 73.2 percent worth of products exported from Saudi Arabia were bought by importers in Asia. In second place were customers in Africa at 10.6 percent ahead of Europe at 9.7 percent.
Smaller percentages of 2.8 percent arrived in North America, Oceania got 2.1 percent led by Australia and Latin America got 1.8 percent excluding Mexico.
Given Saudi Arabia’s population of 34.8 million people, its total of 176.5 billion dollars in 2020 exports translates to roughly 5,100 dollars for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Saudi global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Saudi Arabia.
Mineral fuels including oil with 132 billion dollars account for 74.8 percent of total exports
Plastics, plastic articles with 16.3 billion dollars account for 9.2 percent
Organic chemicals with 9.7 billion dollars account for 5.5 percent
Inorganic chemicals with 2.3 billion dollars account for 1.3 percent
Aluminum with 2.10 billion dollars accounts for 1.2 percent
Gems, precious metals with 2 billion dollars account for 1.1 percent
Fertilizers with 1.2 billion dollars account for 0.7 percent
Dairy, eggs, and honey with 1.1 billion dollars account for 0.6 percent
Electrical machinery, and equipment with 656.48 million dollars account for 0.4 percent
Articles of iron or steel with 656.4 million dollars account for 0.4 percent.
Saudi Arabia’s top 10 exports accounted for 95.2 percent of the overall value of its global shipments.
Propelled by higher international sales of gold, gems and precious metals was the fastest grower among the top 10 product categories thanks to a 185.6 percent year-over-year gain.
The only other product category to realize higher export sales were fertilizers, which was up by 10.2 percent. The leading decliner among the top 10 Saudi Arabian export categories was mineral fuels including oil via a minus 26.2 percent decrease.
In macroeconomic terms, Saudi Arabia’s total exported goods in 2020 represent 10.3 percent of its overall Gross Domestic Product with 1.706 trillion dollars valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars. That 10.3 percent for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 13.3 percent for 2019, Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Saudi’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in January 2021 up from 6.1 percent one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Saudi Arabia’s capital city is Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Five of Saudi Arabia’s largest companies are financial institutions that support international trade transactions. The sole Middle Eastern country with coasts on both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia is also home to a pair of diversified chemicals producers.
To give some global trade perspective on recent Saudi company performance, the overall value of Saudi exported goods fell by minus 13.9 percent from 341.9 billion dollars in 2014 to 294.5 billion dollars in 2018. Year over year, Saudi Arabia’s exports appreciated by 33.8 percent from 2017 to 2018.
In the analysis below, we compare Saudi Arabia’s major export-oriented companies based on asset values, sales, and profitability as of December 2018. Also presented is the Saudi city where each business has its headquarters.
Below are Saudi Arabia’s biggest export-related companies organized by asset value. Shown within parentheses is the primary industry in which each company operates. Also shown is the change in asset value as of December 2018 compared to 2017.
National Commercial Bank with 116.7 billion dollars, down by minus 0.8 percent from 2017
Al Rajhi Bank with 93.1 billion dollars up by 2.8 percent
Saudi Basic Industries with 90.5 billion dollars, up with 7.2 percent
Samba Financial Group with 61 billion dollars down by minus 1.1 percent
Riyad Bank with 57.7 billion dollars down by minus 0.5 percent
Saudi British Bank with 48.7 billion dollars down by minus 1.8 percent
Saudi Telecom with 30.7 billion dollars up by 13.4 percent
Saudi Arabian Mining with 25.3 billion dollars, down by minus 2.2 percent
Petro Rabigh with 16.4 billion dollars up by 5.9 percent
Almarai with 8.5 billion dollars up by 9.8 percent
Five of these large Saudi businesses expanded their asset values from 2017 to December 2018, led by Saudi Telecoms with a 13.4 percent gain.
Asset deteriorations ranged from a minus 0.5 percent dip for Riyad Bank up to a minus 2.2 percent reduction for Saudi Arabian Mining.
Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Imports
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia imported an estimated 131.3 billion dollars worth of goods from around the globe in 2020, up by 1.2 percent since 2016 but down by minus 9 percent from 2019 to 2020.
In 2020, the biggest 5 product categories represented 39.9 percent of total Saudi imports by value. Those categories are machinery including computers, vehicles, electrical machinery and equipment, pharmaceuticals, and iron or steel.
From a continental perspective, 53.2 percent of Saudi Arabia’s total imports by value were purchased from Asian countries. European trade partners supplied 26.3 percent of products imported into Saudi Arabia while 12.8 percent worth of goods originated from North America.
A smaller percentage of 3.8 percent came from Africa, Latin America brought in 3.1 percent excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean then Oceania with 0.9% percent led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Saudi Arabia’s population of 34.8 million people, its total of 131.3 billion dollars in 2020 imports translates to roughly 3,800 dollars in yearly product demand from every person in the Middle Eastern nation.
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Saudi Arabia’s import purchases during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Saudi Arabia.
Machinery including computers with 15.4 billion dollars accounts for 11.8 percent of total imports
Vehicles with 14.1 billion dollars account for 10.7 percent
Electrical machinery, and equipment with 12.7 billion dollars account for 9.7 percent
Pharmaceuticals with 5.6 billion dollars with 4.3 percent
Iron, steel with 4.5 billion dollars account for 3.4 percent
Mineral fuels including oil with 4.4 billion dollars account for 3.3 percent
Optical, technical, and medical apparatus with 3.7 billion dollars account for 2.8 percent
Articles of iron or steel with 3.4 billion dollars account for 2.6 percent
Plastics, plastic articles with 3.3 billion dollars account for 2.5 percent
Cereals with 2.9 billion dollars account for 2.2 percent
Saudi Arabia’s top 10 imports accounted for 53.3 percent of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Mineral fuels including oil posted the fastest-growing increase in value among the top 10 import categories, up by 121 percent from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for higher purchases was the iron or steel materials category thanks to its 7.7 percent gain. Trailing that was pharmaceuticals up by 5.8 percent.
Electrical machinery and equipment incurred the severest drop among the top 10 Saudi imports, falling at minus 11.5 percent year over year.