Supply Chains and Transportation

This map shows every country's biggest import

The Suezmax sized oil tanker Karvounis lies at anchor stranded off the coast of Louisiana for lack of a bank letter of credit to discharge its cargo of Venezuelan heavy crude, south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, U.S. August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman - RC1DD692BE40

The most popular import for more than half of the countries is fuel. Image: REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

John McKenna
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Supply Chain and Transport

The most imported goods around the world are petroleum and cars, according to this map of every country's biggest import.

Covering the imports of 187 of the world’s 195 nations, the map reveals that the biggest import for more than half of these countries is fuel.

For those countries with their own domestic oil and gas resources, transport still drives their import needs: from the US, to Russia, to Saudi Arabia, their most imported products are cars.

According to the data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity, organized into a map by vouchercloud, transportation is the most imported product type for 54 of the world nations, with 26 of these countries prizing cars above all else.

The basics to survive

While the most advanced economies tend to import cars and electronics, and rapidly developing nations like China and India prize fuel most highly, there are 12 nations in the world for which food is their main import.

Click image for a larger version of the map Image: Observatory of Economic Complexity, visualized by vouchercloud

General disclaimer:

The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the World Economic Forum concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

These are typically developing economies in challenging environments.

In the case of Caribbean islands like Grenada, which imports poultry meat more than anything else, and Haiti where rice is its biggest import, a lack of land and extreme weather combine to challenge domestic agriculture.

Image: Observatory of Economic Complexity, visualized by vouchercloud

In Algeria, where 80% of the land is desert, wheat is the biggest import.

And in Somalia, two decades of armed conflict have left the country with underdeveloped agriculture, and its biggest import is vegetables.

Away from food, there are two African nations – Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and two former Soviet states – Georgia and Uzbekistan – for which medical supplies are the goods bought from abroad more than anything else.

Image: Observatory of Economic Complexity, visualized by vouchercloud

Diamonds, gold and guns

While the overwhelming majority of countries’ top imports are either food, fuel or transport, there are some eye-catching exceptions.

In South East Asian countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines, integrated circuits are the most common import.

Switzerland, famous for its finance sector, is perhaps unsurprisingly the only country in the world where gold is its number one import.

Image: Observatory of Economic Complexity, visualized by vouchercloud

Further south, Israel’s most imported goods are diamonds.

Meanwhile, there is only one country in the world where military weapons top the list of imports: the Central African Republic.

The country suffered a devastating civil war, and the UN earlier this year warned that violence is escalating and there are early signs of genocide.

Despite significant natural resources of gold, timber, diamonds and uranium, the Central African Republic is among the poorest nations in the world.

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