Vitamin D on the international market

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for a healthy body. It is vital for the proper functioning of the immune system and protects us and helps to reduce the incidence of bacteria, infections, diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory tract infections.

Among the benefits that vitamin D brings to our bodies are the regulation of calcium and phosphate, which help us to achieve optimal quality of teeth, bones, and muscles. Vitamin D helps to prevent the symptoms of osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis from worsening. It also helps nerves to transmit messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

Vitamin D is generally known to be acquired largely through exposure to the sun. However, it also comes from the intake of foods such as fish, meat, and eggs. Vitamin D is closely related to COVID-19. Throughout the year 2020, research has shown that people with vitamin D deficiency had a higher and worse hospitalization than other patients with normal vitamin D levels.

The vitamin D market

Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the market for vitamin D-based medicines and calcium-vitamin D compositions to be in high demand. The intake of these products is intended to fight and fend off the virus.

To facilitate the battle against the coronavirus, some countries have decided to introduce new, more flexible measures regarding the import and export of medicines that strengthen our immune system. Some countries took decisions on the marketing of vitamin D among other products. For example:

  • New Zealand temporarily reduced import tariffs on hygiene products and medicines.
  • Singapore eliminated import tariffs and other customs duties and charges on essential products such as medical, hygienic, pharmaceutical, and agricultural products. It also facilitated the movement of these products by sea and air.
  • Brazil temporarily eliminated import tariffs on certain products and personal protective equipment.
  • The UK, on the other hand, decided to temporarily ban the export of certain medicines needed to treat patients with COVID-19 to benefit its citizens.

Graph 1 – AnnuaI imports

Importaciones anuales

Source: own elaboration with data from

The countries that are importing the most vitamin products are the United States and the Netherlands, followed by Germany. In 2017, the US-China trade war was reflected in the need for the US to import these products.

For many years, the Netherlands and Germany have positioned themselves as the main European markets in this sector. This is due to the awareness of the Dutch and German inhabitants of the importance of a healthy body. In addition, the hours of sun exposure are quite low during the winter and the intake of this vitamin helps them to compensate and to obtain an adequate vitamin D level.

Graph 2 – Imports 2020

Importaciones 2020

Source: own elaboration with data from

These tables show the levels of vitamin imports during the middle months of 2020 in FOB value and in millions of dollars.

The United States, the Netherlands and Germany increased their vitamin imports in the months of the first half of 2020. Similarly, in the summer months, global imports are at their lowest levels. The COVID-19 health crisis may have affected the fluctuation of these levels.

Graph 3 – Annual growth

Crecimiento anual

Source: own elaboration with data from

This graph shows the annual growth rate of imports and tariffs for vitamin products compared to 2015.

Canada is the country that has increased its vitamin market imports the most, followed by Spain.

It should be noted that China and Brazil imposed tariffs on these products. China imposed 4.5% and Brazil 2.1% while the rest of the countries eliminated tariff taxes on vitamin imports.

Graph 4 – Annual exports

Exportaciones anuales

Source: Prepared by the authors based on data from

The graphs show China, the United States, and the Netherlands as the countries with the highest number of vitamin product exports.

China dominates this sector by far. Although in 2015 China suffered its worst export slump in years and the devaluation of its currency, in 2017 its economic situation changed dramatically. Along with the start of the trade war between the United States and China, the latter experienced an economic leap forward thanks to public investment in infrastructure and a rise in exports.

Graph 5 – Monthly exports

Exportaciones mensuales

Source: own elaboration with data from

China was the first country to experience the COVID-19 health crisis. While other countries’ industries stagnated, China stood out and achieved strength in the supply chains affected by the coronavirus. It was the only country to achieve positive economic growth in 2020.

The Netherlands and the United States have a very similar level of exports of vitamin products. While the ebbs and flows of exports are not very noticeable, we can associate this slight fluctuation with the evolution of the pandemic.