Medical imports 8 percent up in Q1 2020

© Hollandse Hoogte / Flip Franssen
In the first quarter of 2020, Dutch imports of medical goods amounted to 8.7 billion euros. This is 8 percent more than in the first three months of 2019. Last year, the Netherlands was the fifth largest importer of medical goods in the world. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this today.

Here, medical products include medical supplies (such as gauze and syringes), medical equipment (e.g. X-ray scanners), personal protective products (e.g. face masks) and specific pharmaceutical products. It concerns those medical goods which are being used in the fight against COVID-19 for example, according to the World Trade Organization.
Over the same period when the import value of medical goods rose by 8 percent, the total value of goods imports declined by 3 percent. The volume of medical imports was up by 10 percent, against a simultaneous decline in total imports of 2 percent.

Development of medical goods imports, Q1 2020
GoederenImport value (year-on-year % change)Import volume (year-on-year % change)
Medical goods8.4510.02
All goods-2.93-1.68

Largest increase in imports of medical supplies

Pharmaceutical products (medicines) are relatively expensive compared to other medical products and therefore hold a substantial share in the total value of medical imports, namely 42 percent (3.6 billion euros in a total of 8.7 billion euros).
At 13 percent, relatively the fastest year-on-year growth was in imports of medical supplies, which amounted to 2.4 billion euros. These were followed by imports of pharmaceuticals (9 percent growth to 3.6 billion euros), medical equipment (6 percent growth to 1.8 billion euros) and personal protective products (virtually unchanged at 0.85 billion euros).
The main countries of origin are the United States (mostly equipment and technology, aids and pharmaceuticals), Germany (mostly pharmaceuticals) and Ireland (mostly medical supplies).
In 2018, 63 percent of Dutch medical goods imports was destined for re-exportation, while 37 percent was destined for the domestic market and domestic industries. There are no data available to date for 2019 and 2020 that include this particular breakdown.

Value of medical imports, first quarter
Medische goederen2020 (bn euros)2019 (bn euros)
Medical supplies2.412.13
Medical equipment1.811.71
Personal protective products0.850.85

Large volume of medical supplies and protective products imported

In the first three months of 2020, the Netherlands imported medical supplies to a total of 377 million kilograms. Furthermore, medical imports included a relatively high volume of personal protective products: 249 million kilograms. As for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment the volumes were much smaller. The share of pharmaceuticals in the total import volume (4 percent) is considerably lower than its share in the import value (42 percent).
The most significant growth in terms of import volume was seen in medical equipment (22 percent relative to 2019). Imports of medical supplies also showed substantial growth in volume, at 14 percent. The import volume of personal protective products increased by 4 percent, while the import volume of pharmaceuticals remained virtually unchanged.
In terms of import volume, the largest foreign suppliers are Belgium, France, Spain (mainly medical supplies), and Germany and China (mainly protective products).

Volume of medical imports, first quarter
Medische goederen2020 (million kg)2019 (million kg)
Medical supplies377329
Personal protective products249240
Medical equipment2924

The Netherlands 5th largest importer and 4th largest exporter worldwide

The global trade in medical goods is dominated - in terms of monetary value of both imports and exports - by the United States, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The top 5 is completed by Switzerland, which is among the world’s largest exporters due to the value of its relatively expensive pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, China exports relatively cheap pharmaceutical and protective products, and partly on account of these exports ranks only seventh as exporting country in medical goods trade. However, China is the third largest importer of medical goods overall.
The Netherlands is the fifth largest importer and fourth largest exporter of medical goods worldwide. The high position in exports is partly on account of its relatively huge volume in re-exports and transit trade of previously imported goods.
In 2019, slightly more than half of the global trade in medical goods consisted of pharmaceuticals. Approximately one-sixth of this trade consisted of medical supplies. Medical equipment and personal protective products each accounted for approximately one-seventh.
The Netherlands imported a relatively high volume of medical supplies and technology last year, and a slightly lower volume of personal protective products. Dutch exports included a relatively high volume of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, but here again a lower volume of personal protective products.

Largest importers and exporters of medical goods, 2019
LandPharmaceuticals (bn US dollars)Medical supplies (bn US dollars)Medical equipment (bn US dollars)Personal protective products (bn US dollars)
Source: CBS, WTO