Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports

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Situated on the Arabian Peninsula within Western Asia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shipped US$294.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -13.9% reduction since 2014 but a 33.8% uptick from 2017 to 2018.

The latest data prorated from 2018 shows that roughly two-thirds (65.4%) of products exported from Saudi Arabia were bought by importers in: China (15.4% of the global total), United Arab Emirates (12.9%), Singapore (6.4%), India (5.7%), Belgium (3.9%), Turkey (3.6%), Kuwait (3.3%), Egypt (3.2%), Bahrain (2.9%), United States (2.9%), Malaysia (2.5%) and Jordan (2.5%).

Given Saudi Arabia’s population of 33.1 million people, its total $294.5 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $8,900 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.

In macroeconomic terms, Saudi Arabia’s total exported goods represent 15.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($1.858 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 15.9% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 21% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Saudi’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that the Middle Eastern kingdom also provided $18.1 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 1% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate was 5.7% at March 2019 down from 6.1% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Saudi global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Saudi Arabia.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$231.6 billion (78.6% of total exports)
  2. Plastics, plastic articles: $20.9 billion (7.1%)
  3. Organic chemicals: $14.3 billion (4.9%)
  4. Ships, boats: $2.6 billion (0.9%)
  5. Inorganic chemicals: $2.29 billion (0.8%)
  6. Aluminum: $2.26 billion (0.8%)
  7. Machinery including computers: $1.9 billion (0.7%)
  8. Iron, steel: $1.4 billion (0.5%)
  9. Vehicles: $1.29 billion (0.4%)
  10. Fertilizers: $1.26 billion (0.4%)

Saudi Arabia’s top 10 exports accounted for 95% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Inorganic chemicals was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 222.6% since 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel thanks to its 148.8% increase.

Saudi Arabia’s shipments of organic chemicals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 46.5%.

The sole decliner among the top 10 Saudi Arabian export categories was vehicles via a -21.2% drop year over year.

From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, crude oil represents Saudi Arabia ’s most valuable exported product at an estimated 68.4% of the country’s total. In second place were processed petroleum oils (9.8%) trailed by ethylene polymers (4.9%), acyclic alcohols (3%), petroleum gases (2.1%), propylene or olefin polymers (also 2.1%), cyclic hydrocarbons (1.2%), polyacetal or ether carbonates (0.6%), ethers (also 0.6%) then fertilizer mixes: (0.5%).

Advantages

Overall Saudi Arabia earned a $159.3 billion surplus in 2018, up by 70.7% from $93.3 billion in black ink one year earlier.

The following types of Saudi 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. Mineral fuels including oil: US$227.6 billion (Up by 35.9% since 2017)
  2. Plastics, plastic articles: $17.8 billion (Up by 26.5%)
  3. Organic chemicals: $12.2 billion (Up by 55.5%)
  4. Inorganic chemicals: $1.4 billion (Reversing a -$22 million deficit)
  5. Fertilizers: $1.2 billion (Up by 39%)
  6. Aluminum: $930 million (Up by 16%)
  7. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $59.7 million (Down by -18.4%)
  8. Lead: $39.1 million (Up by 70.2%)
  9. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $36.2 million (Reversing a -$148.9 million deficit)
  10. Explosives, pyrotechnics, matches: $741,000 (Reversing a -$1.5 million deficit)

Saudi Arabia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum, first and foremost crude oil but also refined petroleum oils and petroleum gases. In turn, these cashflows indicate Saudi Arabia’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels including oil category.

Opportunities

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

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$13.5 billion (Down by -8.9% since 2017)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$12.5 billion (Down by -5.2%)
  3. Vehicles: -$10.6 billion (Down by -6%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: -$5.1 billion (Up by 8.2%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$3.3 billion (Up by 26.1%)
  6. Cereals: -$3.2 billion (Up by 24.7%)
  7. Gems, precious metals: -$3.2 billion (Up by 25.5%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: -$3 billion (Down by -10.8%)
  9. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$2 billion (Up by 1.5%)
  10. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$1.8 billion (Down by -5.6%)

Saudi Arabia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for machinery including computers, air conditioning machines and turbo-jets.

Companies

Saudi Export Companies

Twenty Saudi corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. The following companies are selected examples of leading companies headquartered in Saudi Arabia:

  • Saudi Basic Industries (diversified chemicals)
  • Saudi Arabian Fertilizers (specialized chemicals)
  • Savola Group (food processing)
  • Saudi Arabian Mining (diversified metals, mining)
  • Petro Rabigh (diversified chemicals)

Wikipedia also lists exporters from Saudi Arabia. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Saudi Aramco (oil, gas)
  • Saudi Basic Industries (diversified chemicals)
  • Saudi Arabian Fertilizers (specialized chemicals)
  • Savola Group (food processing)
  • Saudi Arabian Mining (diversified metals)
  • Petro Rabigh (diversified chemicals)
  • Almarai (food processing)
  • Tasnee (petrochemicals)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following firms represent smaller exporters from Saudi Arabia:

  • Al Abeiry PVC Hose Factory (tubes/pipes/hoses, building/monument granite, furniture)
  • Batook Chewing Gum Industries (turpentine oils, menthol, wines)
  • Saudi Aramco Oil (petroleum)
  • Saudi Basic Industries (acyclic hydrocarbons, polyethylene)
  • Yamama Granite Marble (building/monument granite, wooden boxes/cases/crates)


 

Searchable List of Saudi Arabia’s Most Valuable Export Products in 2018

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the most valuable export products are crude oil followed by refined petroleum oils then the chemicals ethylene polymers.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Saudi Arabia during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankSaudi Export ProductValue (US$)2017-8 Change
1Crude oil$183 billion+37%
2Processed petroleum oils$26.2 billion-17.3%
3Ethylene polymers$13.1 billion+36.2%
4Acyclic alcohols$8 billion+322.1%
5Petroleum gases$5.7 billion+16.4%
6Propylene/olefin polymers$5.5 billion+7.3%
7Cyclic hydrocarbons$3.2 billion+112.1%
8Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$1.5 billion+108.7%
9Ethers$1.5 billion-65.4%
10Fertilizer mixes$1.4 billion+9,451%
11Aluminum (unwrought)$1.2 billion+1.4%
12Nitrogenous fertilizers$980.8 million+8.3%
13Amino-resins$827 million+2,272%
14Copper waste, scrap$752 million+59%
15Gold (unwrought)$718.9 million+33.6%
16Acyclic hydrocarbons$637.1 million+13.5%
17Unsaturated acyclic mono acids$584.2 million+207.4%
18Ammonia$578.5 million+111.6%
19Non-sublimed sulphur$520.2 million+1,296%
20Petroleum oil residues$512.5 millionno 2017 data
21Saturated acyclic mono acids$509.4 million+63.4%
22Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$407.6 million+57.2%
23Epoxides$390.2 million+17,499%
24Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)$384.8 million+293,664%
25Synthetic rubber$382.9 million+148.8%
26Copper ores, concentrates$370.4 million+108.8%
27Aluminum waste, scrap$361.9 million+19.7%
28Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$323.2 million-15.7%
29Amino-compounds (oxygen)$297.7 million+18.2%
30Phenols/phenol-alcohols$270.8 million+505.3%
31Other nitrogen compounds$269.3 million-12.9%
32Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$264.2 million+705.1%
33Styrene polymers$260.3 million-5%
34Mixed alkylbenzenes, alkylnaphthalenes$214.4 million-10.5%
35Acrylic polymers$180 million+181.1%
36Amine-function compounds$177.9 million+39.7%
37Hydrocarbon derivatives$177.2 million+88%
38Other coloring matter, luminophores$174.7 million-13.9%
39Coated/laminated non-wovens$147.5 million+39%
40Jewelry$138.6 million-64.6%
41Precious metal waste, scrap$131.2 million+70,055%
42Ketones, quinones$123.7 million+91.2%
43Turbo-jets$109.8 million-59.2%
44Stoppers, caps, lids, crown corks$106 million+0.7%
45Paper containers, cellulose wadding$105.4 million-49.8%
46Medication mixes in dosage$105.2 million-67.8%
47Iron or steel tubes, pipes$104.1 million-28.3%
48Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$102.4 million-31.8%
49Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$95.1 million-29.4%
50Hydraulic cements$84.3 million+626.6%
51Polyamides$83.1 million+550.8%
52Dates/figs/pineapples/mangoes/avocadoes/guavas$82.2 million-57.6%
53Synthetic yarn woven fabrics$77.8 million+286.9%
54Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$77.3 million-0.4%
55Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$72.3 million+138.2%
56Sugar (cane or beet)$67.7 million-61.8%
57Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks$66.8 million-71.1%
58Vinyl chloride polymers$59.3 million-69.5%
59Float/ground/polished glass in sheets$59.1 million-9.8%
60Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$58.9 million-43.2%
61Other organic cleaning preparations$58.7 million-83.7%
62Zinc ores, concentrates$55.9 million+266%
63Iron or steel scrap$52.8 million+534.6%
64Animal/vegetable fats, oils$50.4 million+535.5%
65Aircraft, spacecraft$49.7 million+500.6%
66Other organo-inorganic compounds$48.5 million+4,918%
67Platinum (unwrought)$47.7 million+366,700%
68Paper/paperboard waste, scrap$47.3 million-25.8%
69Hair preparations$47.2 million-59.7%
70Chemical industry products/residuals$47.1 million-8.8%
71Iron ores, concentrates$47 millionno 2017 data
72Insulated wire/cable$46.7 million-88.4%
73Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$46.1 million-70.7%
74Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)$43.6 million+256,400%
75Uncoated paper$43.5 million-21%
76Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$43 million-56.7%
77Unprocessed synthetic staple fibers$39.8 million-17.7%
78Aluminum containers$38.1 million-76.1%
79Lead (unwrought)$36.9 million-6.7%
80Iron ferroalloys$36.3 million-31.5%
81Crustaceans (including lobsters)$36.1 million-85%
82Soya-bean oil$34.3 million+15.3%
83Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$34.1 million-82.6%
84Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$33.7 million-89.6%
85Carboxyamid/amide-function compounds$33.4 million+196,594%
86Sheep/lamb skin leather$33.2 million-38.3%
87Cheese, curd$32.5 million-88.5%
88Sodium/potash hydroxide, peroxide$32.2 million-84.9%
89Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$31.4 million-51.6%
90Aircraft parts$30.5 million-90%
91Phone system devices $30.2 million-83.6%
92Bottles, flasks, jars, pots$28.5 million+49.7%
93Magnesite, magnesia$26.4 million+59.5%
94Electric storage batteries$26.3 million-62.7%
95Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$26.1 million-85.4%
96Industrial fatty acids and alcohols$25.4 million+83%
97Synthetic monofilament$25.4 million+7,656%
98Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$24.1 million+94.6%
99Cellulose fiber paper$23.7 million-40.1%
100Plaster items$23.7 million-38.7%
101Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$23.6 million-57.3%
102Heterocyclics, oxygen$23.3 million+4.8%
103Liquid pumps and elevators$23.3 million-60.9%
104Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$22.4 million-85.4%
105Fixed vegetable fats/oils$22.2 million-63.2%
106Aluminum bars/rods$22.1 million-81.8%
107Plastics waste, scrap$22 million+23%
108Sun/safflower/cotton-seed oil$20.9 million-24.6%
109Synthetic filament yarn$20.7 million-15.4%
110Unglazed ceramic flags, paving, tiles$20.2 million+5.4%
111Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$19.6 million-33.8%
112Other prepared/preserved vegetables (non-frozen)$19.3 million+62.8%
113Carbon$18.9 million+137.4%
114Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream$18.7 million-89.8%
115Uncoated kraft paper$18.1 million-22.4%
116Automobile parts/accessories$17.8 million-43.6%
117Metal-containing ash, residues$17.4 million+4,910%
118Other food preparations$16.8 million+43.8%
119Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream$16.7 million-94.7%
120Pasta, couscous$16.6 million-84.3%
121Electrical converters/power units$15.8 million-79.1%
122Aldehyde, paraformaldehyde$15.8 million-42.1%
123Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$15.6 million-47.2%
124Goat/kidskin leather$15.3 million+26.6%
125Zinc waste, scrap$15.1 million-3.9%
126Prepared adhesives, glues$15 million-53.6%
127Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$14.5 million-65.7%
128Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$14.4 million+162.4%
129Finishing agents, dye carriers, fixers$14.1 million-65.9%
130Artificial and prepared waxes$13.5 million+43%
131Machinery parts$12.6 million-93.4%
132Iron and steel stranded wire, cables (uninsulated)$11.8 million-51%
133Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms$11.8 million+114.5%
134Cruise/cargo ships, barges$11 million-96.2%
135Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$11 million-30.6%
136Monument/building stones including marble$10.7 million+177,717%
137Iron or non-alloy steel wire$10.3 million-28.2%
138Organic surface-active goods, soap$9.8 million-93.6%
139Nickel waste, scrap$9.7 million-72.7%
140Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale$9.2 millionno 2017 data
141Interchangeable hand/machine tools$9.2 million-74.2%
142Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$9.1 million-88.1%
143Miscellaneous iron or steel items$9 million-82.2%
144Copper bars, rods$8.9 million-61.6%
145Household glassware$8.9 million-56.4%
146Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$8.6 million+820.4%
147Perfumes, toilet waters$8.5 million-89.5%
148Refined copper, unwrought alloys$8.4 million+1.8%
149Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$8.4 million+27.4%
150Tea (including flavored)$8.3 million-45.2%
151Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$8.2 million-39.3%
152Sheep/lamb rawhides, skins$8.1 million+2,415%
153Titanium oxide$8 million-78.6%
154Glass fibers$7.9 million-89.6%
155Miscellaneous plastic items$7.7 million-60.9%
156Granite, sandstone, other building stone$7.7 millionno 2017 data
157Natural honey$7.3 million-75.8%
158Lead waste, scrap$7.2 million+793.4%
159Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$7.2 million-83.6%
160Rubber tires (new)$7.2 million-64.3%
161Sauces, mixed condiments, seasonings$7.2 million-76.2%
162Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays)$7.1 million-69.9%
163Miscellaneous heterocyclics$7 million+5,052%
164Physical/chemical analysis tools$7 million+47.3%
165Miscellaneous machinery$7 million-75.6%
166Packing sacks, bags$6.8 million-69.5%
167Cars$6.7 million-99.4%
168Lifting/loading machinery$6.4 million-53.1%
169Vinyl acetate polymers$6.4 million-77.9%
170Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$6.2 million-60.5%
171Miscellaneous/adhesive paper$6.2 million-83.5%
172TV/radio/radar device parts$5.9 million-61.5%
173Buttermilk, yogurt$5.8 million-97.7%
174Taps, valves, similar appliances$5.8 million-85.4%
175Other organic compounds$5.7 million+1,723%
176Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$5.7 million-88.7%
177Fruit and vegetable juices$5.6 million-98.3%
178Coated paper$5.6 million+280.3%
179Iron or non-alloy steel angles, shapes, sections$5.4 million-85.4%
180Derricks, cranes$5.3 million-95.2%
181Monument/building stones, art$5.3 million+34%
182Blood fractions (including antisera)$5.3 million-70.2%
183Orthopedic appliances$5.2 million+211.8%
184Electric water heaters, hair dryers$5.1 million-82.4%
185Copper wire$5 million-87.3%
186Printed books, brochures$4.9 million-73.2%
187Electric motors, generators$4.9 million-74.2%
188Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$4.9 million-79.2%
189Iron or steel pipe fittings$4.8 million-94.8%
190Survey/hydro/weather instruments$4.8 million-97.2%
191Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)$4.7 million-88.4%
192Bridge structures, parts$4.6 million-73.2%
193Move/grade/scrape/boring machinery$4.6 million-93.5%
194Rubber accelerators, plasticizers$4.6 million-74.1%
195Cast/rolled glass in sheets$4.5 million-50.7%
196Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$4.5 million-38.1%
197Zinc oxide/peroxide$4.5 million-86%
198Polycarboxylic acids$4.4 million-64.9%
199Sulphonated hydrocarbons derivatives$4.4 million+7,840%
200Hydrogen, rare gases$4.3 million-38.6%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$266.1 billion or roughly 99.5% by value for all products exported from Saudi Arabia during 2018.

Saudi Arabia’s capital city is Riyadh.

See also Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Top Middle Eastern Export Countries and Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Imports

Research Sources:
Forbes 2018 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 24, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 23, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 23, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 24, 2019

The World Factbook, Middle East: Saudi Arabia. Accessed on April 24, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 28, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Saudi Arabia. Accessed on April 24, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 28, 2019

Wikipedia, Saudi Arabia. Accessed on April 24, 2019

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on April 24, 2019