Sharpest decline in inbound goods transport since the 2009 economic crisis

Barge under a bridge
In 2020, altogether 601 billion kg of goods arrived in the Netherlands. This is nearly 6 percent less than in 2019. At the same time, 529 billion kg of goods left the country. The total weight of outbound shipments fell by more than 5 percent relative to 2019. These are the most substantial declines since the economic crisis in 2009. At that time, inbound and outbound transport declined by 11 and 8 percent, respectively. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this today.

Gross weight of inbound and outbound cargo
GoederenstromenInbound transport (year-on-year % change)Outbound transport (year-on-year % change)

In 2020, inbound cargo represented a value of 754 billion euros, down by more than 3 percent on the previous year. Simultaneously, 860 billion euros worth of goods left the country, i.e. an increase of more than 1 percent.

Nearly 60 percent of inbound cargo destined for other countries

Of all cargo that entered the Netherlands in 2020, 43 percent of the gross weight were transit goods and 15 percent was destined for re-export. In terms of total value, 50 percent of inbound cargo concerned transit goods and 21 percent re-exports. Of outbound goods transport, two thirds of the gross weight and 71 percent of the value concerned transit trade or re-exports.

Goods in transit remain in foreign ownership; they are merely transhipped from one transport mode to another or stored in the Netherlands. Re-exports involve goods which are temporarily in Dutch ownership and often undergo minimal processing before they are exported again. They form a constituent part of imports and exports; goods in transit do not.

Inbound transport Transit Domestic exports Outbound transport Imports for domestic use Re-exports 601 529 254 175 260 93 262 93 the Netherlands x bn kg International goods flows by gross weight 2020Inbound transportTransitDomestic exportsOutbound transportImports for domestic useRe-exports601 5292541752609326293the Netherlandsx bn kgInternational goods flows by gross weight 2020

Due to temporary storage, the sum of imports for domestic use, re-exports and transit trade differ slightly from total inbound transport.

Strong decline in inbound and outbound shipments of coal, coke, ores and transport equipment

The steepest decreases were seen in inbound and outbound transport of coal, coke, ores, transport equipment and the category 'pharmaceuticals and chemical specialty products'. The inbound weight of these goods fell by more than 10 percent. Product groups with an increase in inbound weight exceeding 10 percent in 2020 are: waste and secondary raw materials, other mineral products as well as wood, pulp, paper, wood and paper products. Inbound transport of agricultural, forestry and fishery products grew by 9 percent.

The slight increase in value of total outbound transport in 2020 was largely on account of the categories ‘pharmaceuticals and chemical specialty products’ and ‘machinery and electronics’. The outbound weight of these goods decreased; the increase in value was caused by higher prices or a changed product composition within the categories.

Gross weight of inbound and outbound cargo, 2020
 Inbound transport (year-on-year % change)Outbound transport (year-on-year % change)
Waste and secondary raw materials230
Other mineral products174
Wood, pulp, paper, wood and paper products15-2
Agricultural, forestry and fishery products914
Plastics, rubber10
Natural gas-1-16
Machinery and electronics-1-13
Food, beverages and tobacco-20
Salt, sand, gravel, clay-3-1
Basic metals and metal products-3-6
Petroleum products-6-4
Basic chemicals and artificial fertilisers-8-2
Textiles, leather and related products-8-16
Crude oil-9-9
Other goods-10-22
Pharmaceuticals and chemical specialty products-11-3
Transport equipment-14-17
Coal and ignite-31-24

Germany largest supplier of goods, just overtaking Russia

The bulk of inbound goods in 2020 came from Germany and Russia, with both countries having a 13-percent share in the gross weight of inbound transport. In 2019, Russia was still number one. A year later, however, Germany took over the first position with a small lead.

The United States and the group of countries Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands have also swapped places. With 7 percent, the United States now ranks third. Belgium and Luxembourg occupy the fifth position with a 6-percent share in inbound transport, while the United Kingdom moved up from eighth place in 2019 to sixth place in 2020.

While Southwest Asia was still in seventh place in 2019, this region disappeared from the top 10 in 2020. The regions are classified according to the regional classification used in international trade statistics.

Top 10 regions of origin with largest share in inbound weight
Landengroep2020 (%)2019 (%)
United States6.66.3
Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands6.46.7
Belgium and Luxembourg6.25.7
United Kingdom4.34.1
China, Taiwan and Mongolia3.93.6
Northern Europe (EU)3.83.3
Eastern Europe (EU)3.53.2

Share of neighbouring countries in outbound transport declining

In 2020, outbound goods were most likely destined for Germany (28 percent) and Belgium (15 percent). The share of these neighbouring countries in outbound transport decreased slightly relative to 2019. The bulk of outbound cargo to Germany consisted of fossil fuels and ores.

The third and fourth places in the top 10 of outbound transport continued to be held by Southern and Eastern Europe with shares of 5 and 4 percent, respectively. A powerful newcomer in the top 10 is the region of China, Taiwan and Mongolia with a share of 4 percent. Southeast Asia has disappeared from the top 10.

Top 10 destinations with largest share in outbound weight
Landengroep2020 (%)2019 (%)
Belgium and Luxembourg15.015.6
Southern Europe (EU)5.44.7
Eastern Europe (EU)4.54.5
United Kingdom4.14.1
China, Taiwan and Mongolia3.82.6
Northern Europe3.73.4
Western Africa3.43.2
United States3.43.5