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Since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, phosphate has been practically the only export product and thus source of income for Nauru. It yielded a lot of money; at its peak 2 million tons were exported per year. The landowners in particular became very rich because they leased their land to the mining companies. In the early 1990s, a decreasing demand for phosphate, together with the obsolete installations and the realisation that the phosphate supply was slowly running out, caused the yield to drop to approximately 500,000 tonnes of phosphate per year. Experts expect the phosphate industry to be over within 20 years.

The revenues from the phosphate were partly used to invest in all kinds of foreign projects. However, these investments were often so badly planned and prepared that a lot of money was lost. Very negative is the fact that the phosphate mining caused the destruction of about 80% of the island and made it uninhabitable.

In recent years, Nauru has tried to diversify its economic activities somewhat. For example, a large fish market has been built on West Nauru and Japan is planning to invest in a new harbour at Anibare Bay. International fishing rights are being sold to Japan, the United States, Taiwan and the Philippines.

There are also plans to make the island a tax haven for international business. Nauru is almost entirely dependent on imports; almost all foodstuffs (even fresh water) are imported. Its main export partners are Australia and New Zealand. The main import partners are Australia, Britain, New Zealand and Japan. The Nauru Pacific Line and Air Nauru maintain very lucrative shipping and airline connections in the Micronesian region and with Australia, New Zealand, various Asian countries and the United States. Agriculture is limited to the cultivation of coconuts, pineapples and bananas for own consumption and is only possible on a narrow coastal strip. Tourism is still virtually unknown.


Galbraith, K. / Micronesia
Lonely Planet

Levy, N.M. / Micronesia handbook Moon

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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