To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world have taken a variety of restrictive measures, which have negatively affected international trade in goods. However, at the same time demand for a range of products that can help fight the pandemic has increased, which had a positive effect on international trade in these products. One of the most visible of these products is face masks, which are now being widely worn not only by medical professionals, but by many of us in our daily lives.
Comparing the first semester of 2019 with the first semester of 2020, the value of EU imports of face masks grew dramatically, from €800 million to €14 billion; an increase of 1800%! As can be expected, Member States with a large population imported more face masks than Member States with a small population. However when looking at per capita imports there are notable differences among Member States.
Source dataset: DS-1180622
Luxembourg, with a government policy of nationwide distribution of face masks, had by far the highest per capita imports of face masks at €121 per person. Belgium, Germany and France were the only other countries with imports above €50 per person. In contrast, imports were below €10 per person in Cyprus, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Greece and Bulgaria.
China was the main EU partner for the import of face masks, supplying 92% of face masks in the first semester of 2020, up by 30 percentage points compared to the first semester 2019.
Source dataset: DS-1180622
With the exception of Hong Kong, the other top-6 EU import partners all lost market share. In the first semester of 2020, only Vietnam and Hong Kong supplied more than 1% of total EU face mask imports. The United Kingdom, Türkiye and Tunisia all had a share of 0.7%.
For more information about goods used in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can read the Statistics Explained article on EU trade in COVID-19 related products.
- The product code CN-63079098 is used as a proxy for face masks. Apart from face masks this code also includes a number of other textile articles.
- The European Union (EU) includes 27 EU Member States. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. Further information is published here.
- The EU 27 data reflect the political change in the EU composition so the UK is considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU27. However, the UK is still part of the internal market until the end of the transitory period, meaning that data on trade with the UK are still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. As a consequence, while imports from any other extra-EU27 trade partner are grouped by country of origin, the UK data reflect country of consignment. In practice this means that the goods imported by the EU27 from the UK were physically transported from the UK but part of these goods could have been of other origin than the UK. For this reason data on trade with the UK are not fully comparable with data on trade with other extra-EU27 trade partners.
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