The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia imported an estimated US$101.7 billion worth of goods from around the globe in 2018, down by -39.5% since 2014 and dropping -19.8% from 2017 to 2018.
Saudi imports represent 0.6% of total global imports estimated at $17.788 trillion one year earlier.
From a continental perspective, 47.5% of Saudi Arabia’s total imports by value were purchased from Asian countries. European trade partners supplied 26.9% of import into Saudi Arabia while 12.8% worth of goods originated from North America. Smaller percentage came from Africa (3.7%), Latin America (2.5%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Oceania (1.2%) led by Australia.
Given Saudi Arabia’s population of 33.1 million people, its total $101.7 billion in 2018 imports translates to roughly $3,100 in yearly product demand from every person in the Middle Eastern nation.
Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Saudi Arabia’s import purchases during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Saudi Arabia.
- Machinery including computers: US$12 billion (11.8% of total imports)
- Vehicles: $11.3 billion (11.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $9.2 billion (9%)
- Cereals: $4.3 billion (4.3%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $4.3 billion (4.3%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $4 billion (4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $3.5 billion (3.4%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $3.3 billion (3.2%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $2.6 billion (2.5%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $2.5 billion (2.4%)
Saudi Arabia’s top 10 imports accounted for 56.1% of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Aircraft and spacecraft had the fastest-growing increase in value among the top 10 import categories, up by 69.9% from 2017 to 2018.
In second place for higher purchases were cereals up 67.7%. The cereals category was led by rice, barley, corn and wheat. Saudi imports of mineral fuels including oil delivered the third-fastest gain up by 27.6%.
Machinery including computers posted the severest drop among the top 10 Saudi imports, falling -27.4% year over year.
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Information presented under other virtual folder tabs is at the more granular 4-digit level.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level, Saudi Arabia’s most in-demand imported goods are cars (7.5% of total) followed by refined petroleum oils (2.8%), phone system devices including smartphones (also 2.8%), medications (2.6%), aircraft and spacecraft (1.8%), barley (1.7%), bombs and similar ammunition (also 1.7%), taps and valves (1.5%) then aircraft parts (also 1.5%).
In 2018, Saudi importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: US$1.5 billion (down -9.3% from 2017)
- Turbo-jets: $1 billion (up 34.8%)
- Computers, optical readers: $857.5 million (down -37.9%)
- Air conditioners: $750.4 million (down -33.3%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $666.6 million (down -26.6%)
- Air or vacuum pumps: $660.8 million (down -23.5%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $592.5 million (down -12.1%)
- Miscellaneous machinery: $568.5 million (up 82.4%)
- Machinery parts: $492.9 million (down -52.7%)
- Temperature-change machines: $460.8 million (down -36.8%)
Among these import subcategories, Saudi purchases of miscellaneous machinery (up 82.4%) and turbo-jets (up 34.8%) grew from 2017 to 2018.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported machinery among Saudi businesses and consumers.
In 2018, Saudi importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of vehicles.
- Cars: US$7.6 billion (down -19.9% from 2017)
- Armored vehicles, tanks: $1.1 billion (no 2017 data)
- Trucks: $743 million (down -42%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $622.9 million (down -47.2%)
- Public-transport vehicles: $428.9 million (up 3.3%)
- Tractors: $297.6 million (up 738.3%)
- Special purpose vehicles: $277.1 million (up 68.4%)
- Trailers: $114.3 million (down -22.2%)
- Motorcycles: $42.2 million (up 64.9%)
- Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles: $37.4 million (up 39.5%)
Among these import subcategories, Saudi purchases of tractors (up 738.3%), special purpose vehicles (up 68.4%) then motorcycles (up 64.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported vehicles among Saudi businesses and consumers.
In 2018, Saudi importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electronic products.
- Phone system devices including smartphones: US$2.9 billion (down -56.4% from 2017)
- Insulated wire/cable: $588.6 million (down -13.3%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $581 million (down -7.8%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $503.5 million (down -32.3%)
- Radar, radio communication items: $378.1 million (up 65.9%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $356.9 million (down -20.6%)
- Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $326 million (down -25.9%)
- Electric storage batteries: $313.2 million (up 1.7%)
- Electric water heaters, hair dryers: $290.3 million (down -20.7%)
- Electric motors, generators: $236.2 million (down -20%)
Among these import subcategories, Saudi purchases of radar or radio communication items (up 65.9%) and electric storage batteries (up 1.7%) expanded from 2017 to 2018.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported electronics among Saudi businesses and consumers.
In 2018, Saudi importers spent the most on the following 7 subcategories of cereals.
- Barley: US$1.7 billion (up 112.1% from 2017)
- Rice: $1.2 billion (up 17.3%)
- Wheat: $720.4 million (up 220.0%)
- Corn: $713.8 million (up 35.8%)
- Buckwheat, millet, canary seed: $4.9 million (down -35.6%)
- Sorghum grain: $3.5 million (up 5423.4%)
- Oats: $206,000 (down -96.8%)
Among these import subcategories, Saudi purchases of sorghum grain (up 5,423%), wheat (up 220%) then barley (up 112.1%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported pharmaceuticals among Saudi businesses and consumers.
See also Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Top Middle Eastern Export Countries and Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 24, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 24, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 24, 2019
The World Factbook, Middle East: Saudi Arabia. Accessed on April 24, 2019
Wikipedia, Saudi Arabia. Accessed on April 24, 2019