Oil exports falling, imports of used clothing growing: how foreign trade changed during COVID-19

The coronavirus crisis and self-isolation have seriously affected almost all aspects of life. They haven't avoided foreign trade either. Realnoe Vremya has studied how the dynamics of imports and exports in Russia and Tatarstan changed in April 2020. The imports sank by more than 40%, and exports — by more than half (mainly due to a drop in oil exports). In Tatarstan, these indicators fell even more than in the country as a whole. But there are also product categories that have benefited from the crisis, such as the export of cereals or the import of used clothing.

During the coronacrisis, Russia has increased its import of used clothing 3,5 times, and reduced two times the new clothing

According to statistics, imports to Russia in April 2020 “sank“immediately by 41% compared to the same period last year. The figure fell from 7,48 to 4,43 billion dollars. The top 5 products whose imports declined the most included quite different and dissimilar products. Luxury goods and metals have become less popular. The import of goods has fallen by more than 60%, such as furs and products made from it (by 97% or 30 times), lead (8,4 times), precious and semi-precious metals and pearls (4,9 times), tin (4,3 times) and zinc (2,8 times).

However, these goods have already imported into the country for not very large amounts. The record of these categories is for precious metals, the figure a year ago was 87,5 million dollars. Out of significant categories (the amount of importation of which was more than $100 million a year ago), first of all, clothing can be singled out — it “sank” by 56%, from $235 to $103 million. Shoes were imported by 40% less — by 112,2 million dollars (against 188 million a year ago). Non-industrial goods also include toys and sports equipment (down from $144,5 million to $96,4 million).

An even larger type of product, which also significantly reduced the volume of imports, is ground transport. A year ago in April, it was imported for $2,3 billion, but now the figure is only 1,05 billion. In addition to vehicles, the goods related to railways and trams — trains themselves, as well as track equipment — showed a decrease in import volumes by more than a third from major categories of goods. This category decreased from 144,7 to 77,8 million dollars. Ferrous metals (from $488,8 to $295,9 million), oil and mineral fuels (from $202,6 to $130,1 million), ores, slag and ash (from $162,4 to $107 million) also sank by about the same amount.

Interestingly, a growth was also recorded for some types of products. These were 18 out of 96 types of products. Most noticeable is the result of the category “other finished textiles”, which includes kits, used clothing and rags. This category grew from 69,7 to 248,3 million dollars — 3,5 times. The deliveries of ships and boats increased by 13% — from 220 to 250 million dollars.

It is interesting that the growth was recorded in the category of goods classified as “secret code” — these are goods classified as state secrets. As Kommersant wrote in 2014, sources in the customs sphere say that under this code, if necessary, not only weapons can be supplied, but also completely civilian equipment under contracts that are not advertised for some reason. The imports of goods in this category in April increased by 12,3% compared to last April — from 687,6 to 772,5 million dollars.

Oil exports “sank” by 54% and dragged down the overall figure

The exports from Russia increased in more categories than imports — 21 out of 96. The total volume of it, however, “sank” even more than imports — by 53%, from 26,7 to 12,7 billion dollars. It is interesting that the situation here is almost the reverse of imports: the first place in export growth is for precious metals. In general, the areas that have been least affected by the coronavirus are those related to food production.

The companies exporting precious and semiprecious metals from the country felt the best (and this, we will remind, with a strongly reduced import). This type of product in April, compared to the same month last year, increased exports by 3,3 times — from 903,7 million to 2,97 billion dollars. The export of books, newspapers and other printing materials, pyrotechnics and explosives, sugar and confectionery, meat and tin also more than doubled. These types of products, however, are not very large in volume — their exports do not exceed 82,4 million dollars (in the case of sugar and confectionery).

But two other major areas increased the indicator by 64% and 56%, respectively. The first of them is cereals. They were exported for almost a billion dollars in April, or rather — for 960,8 million. A year ago, the figure was only 587,3 million dollars. Besides, the volume of exports of animal or vegetable fats and oils reached 412,8 million dollars — a year ago, the figure was only 264,2 million dollars. We will also note the growth in exports of food residues and waste and ready-made animal feed — the indicator increased by a half over the year, from 96,7 to 146,5 million dollars.

There are not food products among the most sagging export categories at all. The exports of eight types of products decreased by more than 70%. The largest of them is only one — nickel. A year ago, it was exported from Russia for 312,7 million dollars, now the figures fell to 65,5 million dollars. The most affected category of products is optical, photographic, cinematographic, measuring, control, medical and surgical instruments and devices. They were exported by 62% less than a year ago — by 47,8 million dollars (against last year's 124,2 million dollars).

However, in numerical terms, the most significant fall is in mineral fuels, oil and bituminous substances. A year ago, in April, Russia exported $23 billion worth of these products. This year, the volume of exports has more than halved to $10,7 billion. Let us note that this category is the main export item from Russia, so the general fall is mainly due to it. For example, a year ago, goods from this category accounted for 86% of all Russian exports, but now the share has fallen to 84%.

Tatarstan, as well as Russia, successfully exported the “grocery” category

Tatarstan's indicators sank more than in the country as a whole. The imports for the year decreased by 41%, and exports — by 59,3%. The main import item to the region a year ago and now is equipment. A year ago, Tatarstan imported such products worth $100,6 million. In April 2020, the figure fell by more than a quarter to $65,9 million. The second most important type of import is ground transport. It fell even more significantly — by 42%, to 45 million dollars.

In general, there was not a single product with a large import index (more than 10 million dollars) in Tatarstan that did not decrease during the coronacrisis. The imports of plastics, for example, decreased by 13% (to $19,5 million), and electrical machinery and equipment — by 16,5% (to $16,7 million). The category with medical, surgical, measuring and other devices and instruments in general decreased by 58% — from 12,2 million to 5,19 million dollars.

Nevertheless, in the case of 34 types of products, the imports increased — and mostly it is “consumables”. The largest of these categories are rubber and caoutchouc (by 39% to $9,8 million), chemical products (by 9% to $6,1 million) and organic chemical compounds (by 2,8 times to $12,9 million).

As for exports, there are some successful large product categories. For example, ground transport this April was exported by 4% more than a year ago (an increase from 17,1 to 17,8 million dollars). The exports of soap and detergents (as well as candles and lubricants) increased by 58% to $4,6 million, “other chemical products” almost doubled to $5,47 million, and “food residues and waste, as well as ready-made animal feed” — from $1,6 to $3,27 million. But the most significant success is in the category of fats and oils: they were exported almost 15 times more than a year ago — by 13,7 million dollars. So the situation with the successful export of food is relevant not only for Russia but also for Tatarstan.

But, unfortunately, the failures are much more noticeable. Tatarstan's largest export item — oil and mineral fuel — sank by 2,4 times, from 837 to 344,6 million dollars. Rubber and caoutchouc were exported in the amount of 41,2 million dollars against 96,6 million a year ago. Finally, the most significant failure is in the “fertilizers” category. A year ago, they were exported from Tatarstan in the amount of 23,8 million dollars. This April, the indicator fell by almost 1,700 times — to 14,000 dollars.

By Maksim Matveev, Realnoe Vremya analytical service

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