Dutch goods trade above pre-pandemic level in first half of 2021

Container vessel docked at the port
© Hollandse Hoogte / Peter Hilz
In the first six months of 2021, goods exports were up by 42 billion euros relative to one year previously. Goods imports increased by 35 billion euros. Both the import and export value of goods were above their pre-pandemic level, rising by 6 and 8 percent respectively on the first half of 2019. The growth in trade was primarily due to an increased trade volume. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this in connection with this year’s English edition of Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures, an extensive overview of the Netherlands’ external trade and investments.
In the spring of 2020, global trade was very much affected by the coronavirus crisis, which brought production chains around the world to a virtual standstill. At the same time, there was no agreement among oil-producing countries on the price of oil. Both developments caused global demand as well as trade prices to tumble in the first half of 2020. Global trade recuperated in the course of 2020. Lower export and import values in Q4 2020 were entirely attributable to lower trade prices.

Trade in goods (value)
JaarKwartaalImports (year-on-year % change)Exports (year-on-year % change)

Record-level exports of a wide range of products

At over 14 billion euros, the export value of specialised machinery reached an unprecedented level in the first half of 2021. Likewise, the export value of medicinal and pharmaceutical products, fruit and vegetables, (medical) instruments and devices, computers, plastics, and flowers and plants were at the highest level ever recorded.
By the first half of 2021, exports of transport equipment reached levels similar to those before the coronavirus pandemic as a result of rebounding European economies. Oil and gas exports recovered substantially as well relative to the previous year, but not to the same level as in 2019.
Goods exports, first six months
 2021 (bn euros)2020 (bn euros)2019 (bn euros)
Oil and oil products24.318.829.3
Medicinal and pharmaceutical products15.715.512.6
Transport equipment14.710.514.7
Specialised machinery14.211.611.1
Fruit and vegetables10.09.99.6
Instruments and devices9.58.08.3
Computers, office equipment9.38.18.6
Plastics in primary forms8.36.36.9
Flowers and plants7.96.36.4
Natural gas4.63.55.5

Domestic exports grew more rapidly than re-exports

Dutch domestic goods exports reached a total export value of 157 billion euros in the first half of 2021. This is 22 percent up on the same period one year previously and 9 percent higher than in the first half of 2019. Re-exports increased by 12 percent relative to 2020 and by 5 percent relative to 2019. One euro of domestic exports generated earnings of 56 eurocents on average for the Netherlands in 2020. This is four times as much as in re-exports.
Goods exports, first six months
 Domestic exports (bn euros)Re-exports (bn euros)

Imports of virtually all goods close to 2019 levels again

In the first two quarters of 2021, imports of oil (products) and natural gas showed a substantial year-on-year rise: by 6.6 billion euros and 1.9 billion euros respectively. The coronavirus crisis still had a major impact on demand for goods throughout the first two quarters of 2020, when imports of transport equipment, clothing, and iron and steel fell sharply relative to the same period in 2019; by 2021, the import value of these goods rebounded to almost the same level as in the first half of 2019.
Goods imports, first six months
 2021 (bn euros)2020 (bn euros)2019 (bn euros)
Oil and oil products27.120.532.0
Transport equipment15.411.815.2
Medicinal, pharmaceutical products10.89.68.3
Computers, office equipment10.19.59.6
Instruments and devices7.76.76.8
Fruit and vegetables6.76.76.3
Specialised machinery6.45.45.6
Natural gas5.63.76.6
Iron and steel5.14.15.0

More information on trade flow interconnections between the Netherlands and the rest of the world up to 2020 inclusive can be found in the publication: Dutch Trade in Facts and Figures, 2021.