EU is losing competitiveness in Saudi Arabia wheat market

20 January 20232 min reading

The European Union has largely lost its market share in Saudi Arabia, which imports an average of 3 million tons of wheat annually. The EU is being replaced by countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Brazil with competitive wheat prices.

Since 2020/21, Saudi Arabia has quickly and dramatically shifted wheat suppliers while maintaining import volumes at approximately 3.0 million tons. From marketing year 2017/18 to 2019/20, the European Union supplied more than 90 percent of Saudi Arabia imports; in 2020/21 that slipped to about 66 percent, and in 2021/22, to less than 20 percent. In 2021/22, Saudi Arabia relied more heavily upon other suppliers including Brazil (which had a record crop and exports), Ukraine (where Saudi investors held some agricultural investments), and Russia.

The 2022/23 import forecast for Saudi Arabia is revised up to 3.7 million tons on strong demand in the first half of the year. EU 2022/23 exports to Saudi Arabia to date are up compared to last year’s total. However, competitively priced and abundant supplies have led Russia to be the dominant exporter so far this year. Some of the outstanding tenders have option origins, so it remains to be seen which countries will supply the remainder of the year.

Increased imports come despite domestic production increases. 2022/23 domestic production is forecast at 1.0 million tons, up 76 times from 2018/19 production. The government of Saudi Arabia has been encouraging growth in domestic production, which is helping to address rising consumption.

Some of the increased supplies have supported Saudi Arabia exports of wheat products, primarily of uncooked pasta. Total wheat and products exports are forecast at 150,000 tons in 2022/23, most of which is shipped to regional neighbors. In 2021/22, about 60 percent of exports (99,000 tons) were destined for Iraq. The UAE, Jordan, Kuwait, and Oman are other notable importers of Saudi Arabia wheat products.

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