Saudi Arabia overtakes China and India as Kenya’s largest import market

Saudi Arabia overtakes China and India as Kenya’s largest import market
  • Saudi Arabia surpasses China, India, and the UAE as Kenya's largest single import market. 
  • Imports from Saudi Arabia tripled in March, reaching Sh32.27 billion, driven by increased orders of fuel. 
  • Diesel becomes the top import from Saudi Arabia, overtaking jet fuel, as petroleum products fuel Kenya's trade imbalance.

For the first time, Saudi Arabia surpassed China, India, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as Kenya's largest single import market, highlighting the importance of petroleum products in fueling the nation's trade imbalance.

According to data issued by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, goods imported from the largest economy in the Middle East climbed by almost three times to Sh32.27 billion in March from Sh8.44 billion a month earlier on higher orders of fuel.

Prior to China (Sh30.34 billion), India (Sh27.32 billion), and the UAE (Sh13.93 billion), this was the month's biggest import bill.

According to the KNBS statistics, the rise in Saudi Arabian imports in March was mostly caused by higher shipments of gas oil (diesel), the majority of which had previously come from the UAE.

Before the first shipment under the government-to-government fuel import agreement that was signed with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on March 10 arrived in Mombasa, there was an increase in the purchase of diesel from Saudi Arabia as compared to the UAE.

Despite not being among the top three products purchased from Saudi Arabia in the preceding months, the KNBS statistics revealed that diesel overtook jet fuel as the top import by value from the world's second-largest oil producer.

A total of Sh13.84 billion worth of gas oil was imported by oil marketers in the review month, followed by Sh6.75 billion worth of jet fuel and Sh6.51 billion worth of fertilizer (diammonium phosphate).

In contrast, the main imports from Saudi Arabia in February were polypropylene (plastics), which cost Sh648.16 million, butanes (cooking gas), which cost Sh1.06 billion, and jet fuel, which cost Sh3.66 billion. In March of 2022, Saudi Arabia's top three exports to Kenya were jet fuel (worth Sh2.78 billion), fertilizer (worth Sh2.57 billion), and cement clinkers (worth Sh1.16 billion).

For more than a decade, China has been Kenya's main supplier of items including machinery, iron and steel, plastics, clothing, furniture, and electrical and electronic equipment. Due to rising international pricing, petroleum products have over the past year grown to be Kenya's largest source of imports.

Between December and February, the UAE overtook China and India to become the top supplier of imports by value due to increased sourcing of petroleum products from the Middle Eastern nation. The rising volatility of the commodity price has been referred to be a "challenge for consumers and economic stability" by the William Ruto government in the 2023 Budget Policy Statement (BPS).

In the basket of goods and services used to calculate inflation in the nation, the cost of energy and transportation is heavily weighted.

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