Goods imports down mainly due to less petroleum and gas

© Hollandse Hoogte / Lex van Lieshout
In the first eight months of 2020, Dutch goods imports amounted to over 275 billion euros. This is nearly 29 billion euros less than in the same period last year, i.e. a decrease of more than 9 percent. In particular, imports of mineral fuels such as petroleum and natural gas declined substantially, by nearly 20 billion euros. Excluding mineral fuels, imports were 3 percent lower than in 2019 and 2 percent higher than in 2018. This is evident from the latest provisional figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

In 2019, before the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, goods imports (460 billion euros) and goods exports (515 billion euros) reached record levels. More information on, for example, the international activities within the Dutch business economy, the composition and geographical dimension of Dutch trade and investments can be found in the publication Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures 2020, which is available in English as of today.

In the period from January to August 2019, mineral fuels accounted for 17 percent of total imports. This share shrank to approximately 11.5 percent in 2020. In addition to the coronavirus crisis, Dutch importers were faced with lower trade prices. During the first eight months of 2020, import prices were almost 4 percent down on the same period last year.

Goods imports, January-August
JaarMineral fuels (bn euros)Other goods (bn euros)
201264.5194.0
201364.3192.6
201459.2194.6
201545.3201.6
201634.1204.7
201744.0225.0
201852.3237.9
201951.6252.5
202032.0243.0

Drop in imports mainly in April and May

In January and February, goods imports were more or less as high as in 2019. In April and May in particular, the value of imports fell due to lower demand for goods and lower trade prices. Imports were down by 21 and 23 percent respectively in these months relative to one year previously. As of June, goods imports picked up slightly but remained below the level of 2019.

Goods imports
Maand2019 (bn euros)2020 (bn euros)
Jan38.639.0
Feb36.035.8
Mar39.637.4
Apr39.130.9
May39.730.6
Jun37.035.2
Jul38.334.5
Aug35.832.1

Substantially less transport equipment imported

More than two-thirds of the decline in Dutch goods imports is due to lower imports of mineral fuels. In the first eight months of 2020, imports of crude oil (-7.7 billion euros), refined petroleum products (-7.3 billion euros) and natural gas (-2.9 billion euros) fell at an unprecedented rate. Imports of transport equipment and components contracted by 3.5 billion euros (-26 percent), mainly due to lower demand.

Goods with the largest decline in imports, January- August 2020
ProductImports (Year-on-year change, bn euros)
Crude oil-7.722
Refined petroleum products-7.324
Natural gas-2.889
Automotive parts and components-1.472
Passenger cars-1.398
Office equipment-0.815
Petroleum residues-0.620
Tractors, lorries, etc.-0.430

Increase in imports of medical goods

The Netherlands imported a large number of medical goods and personal protective equipment from January to August 2020. The import value of medicines grew by 755 million euros (12 percent) to 6.9 billion euros. The import value of medical and non-medical face masks stood at 857 million euros, up by 678 million euros. The growth in imports of biodiesel is striking. Biodiesel is a mixture of mineral diesel and diesel produced from vegetable oil or animal fats. Dutch traders purchased 2.4 billion euros worth of biodiesel abroad, 475 million euros more than one year previously. Imports of raw materials for the production of biodiesel, such as oilseeds and animal and vegetable oils and fats, increased sharply as well in 2020.

Goods with the largest increase in imports, January-August 2020
ProductImports (Year-on-year change, bn euros)
Medicines0.755
Face masks0.678
Computers, laptops and tablets0.623
Medicinal and pharmaceutical products0.597
Oilseeds0.559
Fruit0.511
Animal and vegetable oils and fats0.485
Biodiesel0.475

Significantly more face masks from China

Up to August, imports from China were up by 809 million euros. There was a sharp increase in imports of face masks (545 million euros) in particular. The demand for Chinese computers, laptops and tablets was also significantly higher in the first eight months of 2020 compared to last year. The four categories with the highest growth rate exclusively represent Asian goods.

Goods suppliers with the strongest growth, January-August 2020
 Imports (Year-on-year change, bn euros)
China0.809
Vietnam0.460
Malaysia0.376
Taiwan0.347
Hungary0.246

Imports from Europe substantially lower

Goods imported from European countries fell by almost 23 billion euros. This is 12 percent below the level from January to August 2019. Among the suppliers of goods with the largest contraction are five European countries. In the case of Russia, the United Kingdom and Norway, this is largely due to reduced imports of mineral fuels.

Goods suppliers with the strongest decline, January-August 2020
 Mineral fuels (Year-on-year change, bn euros)Other goods (Year-on-year change, bn euros)
Russia-5.156-0.156
Germany-0.801-3.356
United Kingdom-2.223-1.266
Norway-2.903-0.168
Belgium-1.103-1.671

Sources