84 percent of sunflower oil imports in 2021 came from Ukraine

Empty shelf in the supermarket
© ANP / Ramon van Flymen
In 2021, Ukraine was the largest supplier of crude sunflower oil and maize to the Netherlands. Eighty-four percent of crude sunflower oil imports originated from Ukraine last year. For maize, Ukraine’s share was 42 percent. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

In total, the Netherlands imported more than 2 billion euros worth of goods from Ukraine in 2021. No less than 1.8 billion euros (88 percent) was for agricultural products. For the Netherlands, crude sunflower oil and maize are the most important products coming from Ukraine. Last year, the import value of both products was equally high and together they accounted for 52.5 percent of total imports from Ukraine. Colza and rapeseed are good for 17 percent of the import value. The category other agriculture (19 percent) includes products such as chicken meat and soybeans.

With an import value of 1.8 billion euros, Ukraine was the tenth largest origin country for agricultural products in 2021. The bulk of agricultural imports comes from Germany, Belgium, France and Brazil. Russia is the 44th largest supplier of agricultural goods.

Import value of goods from Ukraine, 2021
ProductImport value
Crude sunflower oil537.5
Colza and rapeseed349.5
Other agricultural goods386.1
Non-agricultural goods237.9

The Netherlands EU’s largest sunflower oil importer

In 2021, the Netherlands obtained 641 million euros worth of crude sunflower oil from other countries, of which 538 million (84 percent) came from Ukraine. This makes the Netherlands not only the EU’s largest importer of crude sunflower oil, but also the country with the highest crude sunflower oil imports from Ukraine. Spain and Italy are the EU’s second and third largest importers of sunflower oil in the EU. The Netherlands is also the largest importer of sunflower oil from Ukraine in percentage terms (84 percent), followed by Malta (77 percent import share), Spain (69 percent) and France (66 percent).

The bulk of Ukrainian crude sunflower oil imported by the Netherlands eventually ends up abroad, either directly as re-exports or indirectly as exports after further processing domestically. Only 15 percent remains in the Netherlands, mostly after it has undergone further processing.

Sunflower oil is used for baking and frying, but is also used as an ingredient for biscuits, mayonnaise, baby food and meat substitutes. It can be replaced by rapeseed oil, soybean oil or palm oil for example, but these products are not always readily or cheaply available.

Largest EU importers of crude sunflower oil, 20211)
 Ukraine (million euros)Other countries (million euros)
Source: CBS, Eurostat
1) If quasi-transit is included, Dutch imports were even higher (685 million euros in total and 582 million euros from Ukraine, a share of 85 percent).

The Netherlands also largest EU importer of maize from Ukraine

Maize imports in 2021 represented an even higher amount, namely 1.29 billion euros, of which 536 million came from Ukraine (a 42-percent share). This makes the Netherlands the EU leader for importing maize from Ukraine. Spain is the largest maize importer among the EU countries (with an import value of 1.86 billion euros), but sources more maize from other countries. Aside from the Netherlands and Spain, Italy is the only other EU country with maize imports exceeding one billion euros in 2021.

As for maize imports from Ukraine, only Spain was close to the Netherlands with an import value of 510 million euros last year. The Netherlands sourced most maize from Ukraine in percentage terms as well. It is followed by Portugal (35-percent share), Belgium (32 percent) and Spain (27 percent).

A small portion (8 percent) of the imported maize from Ukraine is immediately exported to other countries. The bulk ends up abroad after being processed in the Netherlands (66 percent), while a smaller portion remains in the Netherlands (26 percent). Maize is widely used as a raw material in livestock feed for chickens, pigs and cattle.

Largest EU importers of maize, 20211)
 Ukraine (million euros)Other countries (million euros)
Source: CBS, Eurostat
1) If quasi-transit is included, Ukraine's share is 40 percent of total Dutch maize imports.