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In the years before independence, phosphate exports accounted for 45% of the gross national product and 85% of total export revenues. In 1979, this income fell away, because the phosphate was gone! The population was forced to fall back on subsistence farming and Kiribati is the poorest country in Micronesia. On the remote islands, the Coconut Products Limited earns money by selling copra and copra products. Agriculture produces taro, pumpkins, breadfruit, coconuts and papayas, among other things. The export of copra brings in a fair amount of money every year. Most of the copra is exported to Bangladesh. The export of aquarium and pond fish is also an economic factor. Especially on the remote islands, seaweed production is becoming increasingly important. Tourism has yet to really take off.

Foreign fishing rights also bring in money. An attempt to set up some fishing industry failed for lack of good boats. Around 1,500 Kiribati work on foreign (mainly German) fishing boats. Kiribati imports many goods from Australia, Japan, Fiji, New Zealand and the United States and is also largely dependent on Australia for financial aid. In 2017, goods worth $107 million were imported and $85 million were exported, mainly to the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The seabed around the Line Islands contains the richest reserves of cobalt, nickel, platinum and manganese in the world.

Some more key figures on the economy in 2017. Economic growth was 3.1%. Kiribati has a very low GDP per capita at $2000 and around 30% of the labour force is unemployed.


Galbraith, K. / Micronesia
Lonely Planet

Levy, N.M. /Micronesia handbook Moon

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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