Saudi Arabia’s Commodity Imports & Exports: Securing Economic Survival In A Post-Oil Era

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saudi arabia map
Source: WikiMedia Commons

Economy of Saudi Arabia – Overview

Saudi Arabia is ranked the 25th largest export economy in the world with annual exports totaling $182 billion and a positive trade balance of $15.6 billion (after deducting annual imports of $167 billion).

The value of the country’s exports has fallen at an annualized rate of 13% in the last five years from $434 billion to $182 billion, with the price of crude petroleum being a major factor.

Saudi Arabia is the 28th largest importer in the world and the annual value of its imports have risen by an annualized rate of 9% in the last five years from $108 billion to $167 billion.

GDP is $646 billion (World Bank Figures) and that equates to a GDP per capita of $20,028.65.

Saudi Arabia’s Top 5 Commodity Exports

CommodityAmount (Annually)
Crude Petroleum $101 billion
Refined Petroleum
$18.4 billion
Aluminum $1.27 billion
Diamonds $548 million
Coal Tar Oil $1.04 billion

Saudi Arabia’s Other Notable Exports

  1. Ethylene Polymers – $10.5 billion
  2. Propylene Polymers – $5.84 billion
  3. Ethers – $4.92 billion
  4. Acrylic Alcohols – $4.18 billion
  5. Cyclic Hydrocarbons – $2.5 billion

Top exports destinations for Saudi Arabia are China ($26.7 billion), the United States ($20.9 billion), India ($19.9 billion) and South Korea ($17.7 billion).

Did you know? Saudi Arabia imports camels from Australia. This is because their own camels are bred for domestic purposes and racing, with the camels from Australia being used for the meat, which is considered a delicacy.

Saudi Arabia’s Top 5 Commodity Imports

CommodityAmount (Annually)
Gold $5.28 billion
Refined Petroleum $3.17 billion
Barley $1.6 billion
Rice $1.39 billion
Wheat $650 million

Saudi Arabia’s Other Notable Imports

  1. Cars – $16 billion
  2. Broadcasting Equipment – $3.68 billion
  3. Delivery Trucks – $3.31 billion
  4. Computers – $1.97 billion
  5. Gas Turbines – $1.87 billion

More Information About Saudi Arabia’s Commodities

Crude Petroleum

Crude petroleum accounts for 55% of the country’s total annual exports and is a significant source of revenue, despite plans in place to reduce its dependency on oil outlined in its Saudi Vision 2030 that sets out how they intend to achieve economic survival when the oil runs out.

Currently, Saudi Arabia leads the way in the 2nd largest export market in the world, after cars, with annual exports of $78 billion, giving them a 20% global market share.

The value of global oil exports has fallen by 59.4% in a five year period, demonstrating the decline in oil dependency that Saudi Arabia and other countries need to address, moving forward.

Refined Petroleum

Refined petroleum accounts for 10% of Saudi Arabia’s total annual exports and they are the 8th largest exporter in the world.

The Saudi Arabian Oil Company, commonly known as Aramco, is the national petroleum and natural gas company. It manages over 100 oil and gas fields and is considered to be one of the most valuable companies in the world in terms of revenue generated.


Saudi Arabia is the 9th largest exporter of raw aluminum and has a 3.5% share of an annual market that is worth $37.2 billion.

Originally formed by Royal decree in 1997, Ma’aden Aluminium (MA) is a joint venture formed in 2009 between the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) and Alcoa. Once fully completed, the US$10.8 billion project is designed to become the largest and most efficient integrated aluminum complex in the world


Saudi Arabia is not a major exporter of diamonds and it has a market share of less than 1%, compared to market-leader, India, who control 19% of the $128 billion annual diamond export market.

Although geological surveys have been commissioned to discover new sources of gold and diamonds in existing mining areas, diamonds currently account for about 0.3% of the country’s total export values, and no significant discoveries have yet been confirmed.

Coal Tar Oil

The coal tar oil annual export market is worth $12.7 billion and Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest exporter with an 8.5% market share.

Refined coal tar is used in the manufacture of chemicals, such as creosote oil, naphthalene, phenol, and benzene. Coal tar prices are heavily linked to the oil price and the decline in oil prices has an impact on coal tar prices and production.

Interesting Facts About Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia is the biggest country in the Middle East and is the 13th largest country in the world. It is also the largest country in the world that doesn’t have a river.
  • Wedding ceremonies are held separately for men and women in Saudi Arabia, with the bride and groom getting together afterward.
  • Saudi Arabia is the last significant monarchy in the world and has been ruled by the Al Saud family since its inception as a nation in 1932.
  • Around 80% of the Saudi Arabian labour force is non-national.

All figures based on OEC/IMF 2016 projections unless otherwise stated.

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