Bulk imports

import-export provides a ‘bulk mode’ to improve the performance of importing large datasets.

In normal operation, import-export will call instance.save() as each row in a dataset is processed. Bulk mode means that instance.save() is not called, and instances are instead added to temporary lists. Once the number of rows processed matches the batch_size value, then either bulk_create() or bulk_update() is called.

If batch_size is set to None, then bulk_create() / bulk_update() is only called once all rows have been processed.

Bulk deletes are also supported, by applying a filter() to the temporary object list, and calling delete() on the resulting query set.


  • The model’s save() method will not be called, and pre_save and post_save signals will not be sent.
  • bulk_update() is only supported in Django 2.2 upwards.
  • Bulk operations do not work with many-to-many relationships.
  • Take care to ensure that instances are validated before bulk operations are called. This means ensuring that resource fields are declared appropriately with the correct widgets. If an exception is raised by a bulk operation, then that batch will fail. It’s also possible that transactions can be left in a corrupted state. Other batches may be successfully persisted, meaning that you may have a partially successful import.
  • In bulk mode, exceptions are not linked to a row. Any exceptions raised by bulk operations are logged and returned as critical (non-validation) errors (and re-raised if raise_errors is true).
  • If you use ForeignKeyWidget then this can affect performance, because it reads from the database for each row. If this is an issue then create a subclass which caches get_queryset() results rather than reading for each invocation.

For more information, please read the Django documentation on bulk_create() and bulk_update().

Performance tuning

Consider the following if you need to improve the performance of imports.

  • Enable use_bulk for bulk create, update and delete operations (read Caveats first).
  • If your import is creating instances only (i.e. you are sure there are no updates), then set force_init_instance = True.
  • If your import is updating or creating instances, and you have a set of existing instances which can be stored in memory, use CachedInstanceLoader
  • By default, import rows are compared with the persisted representation, and the difference is stored against each row result. If you don’t need this diff, then disable it with skip_diff = True.
  • Setting batch_size to a different value is possible, but tests showed that setting this to None always resulted in worse performance in both duration and peak memory.


Scripts are provided to enable testing and benchmarking of bulk imports. See Bulk testing.