Papua New Guinea’s Top 10 Exports

Papua New Guinea flag

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An Oceanian country situated immediately north of Australia, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea shipped an estimated US$11.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 12.3% gain since 2014 and a 5.7% increase from 2017 to 2018.

The latest available data from 2012 shows that 89.7% of products exported from Papua New Guinea were bought by importers in: Australia (35.9% of the global total), Japan (11.7%), Germany (7%), China (6.7%), Singapore (5.6%), Netherlands (4.6%), India (4.5%), Philippines (3.4%), United Kingdom (3.3%), South Korea (2.7%), Spain (2.5%) then the United States of America (1.8%).

Given Papua New Guinea’s population of 7 million people, its total $11.2 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $1,600 for every resident in the island country.

In macroeconomic terms, Papua New Guinea’s total exported goods represent 36.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($30.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 36.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 42.3% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Papua New Guinea’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Papua New Guinea also provided $404.1 million worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 1.3% of GDP in PPP. These metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Papua New Guinea’s unemployment rate was 2.4% in 2018 down from 2.5% two years earlier, according to Trading Economics.

Papua New Guinea’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Papua New Guinean global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Papua New Guinea.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$5 billion (44.6% of total exports)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $2.2 billion (20.1%)
  3. Ores, slag, ash: $938.5 million (8.4%)
  4. Wood: $928.7 million (8.3%)
  5. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $582.8 million (5.2%)
  6. Nickel: $524.3 million (4.7%)
  7. Fish: $304.2 million (2.7%)
  8. Meat/seafood preparations: $211.2 million (1.9%)
  9. Coffee, tea, spices: $207.7 million (1.9%)
  10. Cocoa: $85.4 million (0.8%)

Papua New Guinea’s top 10 exports are extremely concentrated, accounting for 98.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Nickel was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 42.7% since 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was wood via a 26.1% increase.

Papua New Guinea’s shipments of meat or seafood preparations posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 11.8%.

The leading decliner among the top 10 Papua New Guinea export categories was animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes which fell -11.2% year over year.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, petroleum gases represent Papua New Guinea’s most valuable exported product at 34.6% of the country’s total. In second place was unwrought gold (19.7%) trailed by rough wood (8%), copper ores and concentrates (7%), crude oil (6.7%), nickel matte and oxide sinters (4.7%), palm oil (4.3%) processed petroleum oils (3.3%) then frozen whole fish (2.4%).


Overall Papua New Guinea achieved a $6.7 billion trade surplus for 2018, a 4.7% improvement from the $6.4 billion in black ink one year earlier.

The following types of Papua New Guinean product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$4.2 billion (Down by -0.7% since 2017)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $2.2 billion (Up by 4.5%)
  3. Ores, slag, ash: $938.4 million (Up by 2.6%)
  4. Wood: $921.2 million (Up by 26.1%)
  5. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $543.5 million (Down by -12%)
  6. Nickel: $524 million (Up by 42.8%)
  7. Fish: $286.4 million (Down by -4.4%)
  8. Coffee, tea, spices: $205.3 million (Up by 1.7%)
  9. Meat/seafood preparations: $163.6 million (Up by 22.5%)
  10. Cocoa: $81.8 million (Up by 3.7%)

Papua New Guinea has highly positive net exports in the international trade of petroleum gases and, to a lesser extent, crude oil. In turn, these cashflows indicate Papua New Guinea’s strong competitive advantages under the category named mineral fuels including oil.


Below are exports from Papua New Guinea that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Papua New Guinea’s goods trail Papua New Guinean importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$774.1 million (Up by 9.6% since 2017)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$361.9 million (Down by -0.7%)
  3. Vehicles: -$286.4 million (Down by -5.7%)
  4. Articles of iron or steel: -$201 million (Up by 16.8%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$127.2 million (Up by 10.2%)
  6. Cereals: -$120.3 million (Up by 37.5%)
  7. Meat: -$114.2 million (Down by -11.2%)
  8. Miscellaneous food preparations: -$113.4 million (Up by 17.3%)
  9. Rubber, rubber articles: -$80.2 million (Down by -2.3%)
  10. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$77.3 million (Down by -0.8%)

Papua New Guinea has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery including computers category.


Papua New Guinean Export Companies

Not one Papua New Guinean corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.

Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Papua New Guinea. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Bank South Pacific (international bank)
  • InterOil (oil, gas)
  • Liquid Niugini LNG (natural gas)
  • Oil Search Limited (oil, gas)
  • Ok Tedi Mining Limited (copper, gold mining)
  • PNG Air (airliner)


Papua New Guinea’s capital city is Port Moresby, nicknamed “Pom City”.

See also Gold Exports by Country, Silver Exports by Country and Capital Facts for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Research Sources:
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 26, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 8, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on June 26, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 26, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 8, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 8, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Papua New Guinea. Accessed on June 26, 2018

Wikipedia, Papua New Guinea. Accessed on June 26, 2018

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 8, 2019