Saudi Arabia is home to the Muslim world’s holiest cities and also some of the world’s most extensive oil reserves. It remains one of the foremost powerful countries in the Middle East by virtue of controlling vast oil fields, having the most land mass in the Arabian Peninsula, and having considerable military might compared to other countries in the region. Unlike the United Arab Emirates that has diversified their economy to rely less on their oil reserves Saudi Arabia focuses most of its energy on very specific exports including:
The country is heavily reliant on crude petroleum exports to sustain the country’s GDP. Saudi Arabia has 18% of the world’s known oil reserves and is the world’s largest exporter of the commodity. In fact, petroleum makes 70% of their export revenue and according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) the nation produced an average 10.3 million barrels of crude oil per day out of which 7.4 million barrels were exported per day. Much of what the country exports is oil in its crude form.
The main oil importers of Saudi oil include China which takes 13.6%, followed by Japan with 11.3%, India with 10.7%, the United States takes 9.8% while South Korea take 9.1% and Singapore 4.7%. Their total export revenue is approximately $182 billion and crude oil is the major contributor to that figure.
Saudi Arabia keeps some of the oil it produces to refine it into oil products including diesel, fuel oil and gasoline which it not only uses domestically it also exports to other countries. Interestingly the United Arab Emirates exported more refined petroleum products totaling to $31.7 billion which is 4% of the total refined oil products exported worldwide compared to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis only exported $26.2 billion worth of refined petroleum oil products amounting to 3.3% of the total refined oil exports worldwide. However, it still remains among the 15% top exporters of refined petroleum products globally.
The reason for this may be because the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is reducing the amount of crude oil it’s producing. They also consume a lot of their own refined oil products to run their industries since they are wholly reliant on oil and its products to run manufacturing, production and assembly plants all over the country.
Among the countries that Saudi Arabia exports Propylene polymers are China and Turkey. To Turkey the revenue generated in 2018 from the exportation of propylene polymers was $853 million and from China it was $379 million in the same period.
Other significant markets for Saudi propylene polymers include neighboring United Arab Emirates and Kuwait as well as Singapore, India, Italy, Mexico, Germany and Egypt. Propylene polymers are the 84th most traded commodity in the world market and Saudi Arabia tops the list in the biggest exporter of the commodity.
Vehicles are a major import commodity in Saudi Arabia making them the leading import product in the country. Even though the import of cars fell by 20.5% in 2018 the figures were still impressive reaching 440,922 units. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia imports everything from four wheel drives that are reliable in the desert landscape to sedans, heavy duty trucks vehicles, buses and cars for disabled members of society. True to form is one of the Middle East’s leading importer of vehicles across its multiple ports.
Saudi Arabia has access to over 400 million customers for the vehicles they import not only domestically but all over the MENA region which comprises of the Middle East and North Africa. The MENA region comprises of 17 countries and since the nation is a signatory to the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA) this allows them to do business in the area duty free. This is another revenue channel for the Saudi government as they currently have monopoly of the vehicle market in the region. They use Ro-Ro cargo although some affluent people prefer containers for some of their more expensive vehicles.
Saudi Arabia spent $5.53 billion in 2018 on pharmaceutical imports. The country accounts for 59% of the Gulf region’s imports of pharmaceuticals and by 2023 they are expected to be importing $8.5 billion worth of pharmaceuticals as their medical industry continues to grow.
The country’s vision for 2030 is to grow the public and private sector and develop the life sciences industry and pharmaceuticals. The country is only able to produce 30% of their pharmaceutical products locally and their growing population is one of the reasons why they have such a high need for the importation of pharmaceuticals.
They have tapped into the generic market in order to keep up with supply for their domestic demand. American, European and Indian companies have established a presence in the country to tap into the domestic demand and they are already producing antibiotics, treatment for diabetes, anticoagulants and cardiovascular drugs. The country is opening its doors to such companies that will help it mitigate their need to import by creating all types of drugs from vaccines to AP.
"In various parts of Europe and the US, the shortage is a real problem, it's important to have alternatives routes or transport as an option"
Klaus Lydsal, vice president of operations at iContainers