RIYADH: Saudi oil exports surged 75 percent year-on-year in March to SR52.3 billion ($13.95 billion) while non-oil exports rose 43 percent to $5.96 billion, which was the highest level since July 2018, according to official data.
The General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) report showed that early last year, as the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic became evident, oil prices fell in March to around $34 a barrel.
Oil remained the dominant export in the month, accounting for $19.91 billion — or 70 percent — of exports.
Oil prices were slightly lower on Thursday. Brent was down 60 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $68.27 a barrel while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 57 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $65.64 a barrel.
At the same time, non-oil exports rose 43 percent year-on-year to $5.96 billion in March, the highest for 20 months, according to the GASTAT. The total value rose $14.1 billion between February and March.
The biggest monthly surge in exports was in the optical, medical or surgical instruments, clocks and watches category, which was up 261 percent. One of the biggest sectors was plastics, rubber, and their products, which rose 58 percent to $2 billion.
Furthermore, vehicles, aircraft, vessels and associated transport equipment exports rose 240 percent, while food industry products and tobacco rose just 6 percent.
Sea remained the preferred method of transport, accounting for 74.1 percent of non-oil export trade, followed by land (16.7 percent) and air (9.2 percent).
Business activity in the Saudi Arabian non-oil private sector in April accelerated at the fastest pace in three months, owing to a significant rise in new sales as businesses recovered from the impact of COVID-19, according to the latest IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey.
Firms in the Kingdom also expanded staff numbers for the first time in five months, the index showed. The seasonally adjusted PMI rose to a three-month high of 55.2 in April, up from 53.3 in March, indicating a significant improvement in non-oil private sector business conditions. Any score above 50 indicates growth and the figure has been increasing every month since September 2020.
“The Saudi Arabia PMI rebounded in April to indicate a strengthening of growth across the non-oil economy,” said David Owen, an economist at IHS Markit.
“New orders picked up at the quickest rate for three months as business conditions continued to recover from COVID-19. The rise helped lead to a renewed uplift in employment, with the pace of increase the fastest since November 2019.”