A group of 36 inhabited islands in the South Pacific, the Kingdom of Tonga shipped an estimated US$13.8 million worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -26.9% decline since 2014 and an -18% decrease from 2017 to 2018.
Based on 2017 estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Tonga’s exported goods plus services represent 59.8% of total Tongan economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 83% of products exported from Tonga were bought by importers in: New Zealand (23.2% of the global total), Hong Kong (17.7%), United States (13.1%), Japan (10.9%), Australia (8.8%), Samoa (2.5%), Philippines (1.7%), South Korea (1.7%), Fiji (1.1%), Vanuatu (0.9%), US Minor Outlying Islands (0.8%) and Taiwan (0.6%).
Given Tonga’s population of 106,398 people as of July 2018, its total $13.8 million in 2018 exports translates to about $130 for every resident in the South Pacific nation.
Tonga’s unemployment rate was 1.171% in 2017 as estimated by Trading Economics.
Tonga’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Tongan global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Tonga.
- Vegetables: US$4.7 million (34.4% of total exports)
- Fish: $2.9 million (21.3%)
- Machinery including computers: $903,000 (6.5%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $892,000 (6.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $576,000 (4.2%)
- Fruits, nuts: $480,000 (3.5%)
- Ships, boats: $413,000 (3%)
- Oil seeds: $371,000 (2.7%)
- Vehicles: $309,000 (2.2%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $216,000 (1.6%)
Tonga’s top 10 exports accounted for 85.9% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Machinery including computers was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 365.5% since 2017. In second place for improving export sales was ships and boats thanks to a 247.1% uptick. Tonga’s shipments of miscellaneous animal-origin products posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 149.9%.
The leading decliner among Tonga’s top 10 export categories was fruits and nuts which fell -50.4% year over year.
At the more granular Harmonized Tariff System code tariff-line, Tonga’s most valuable exported products in 2018 were miscellaneous fresh or chilled vegetables; whole fresh fish; manioc roots, Jerusalem artichokes and sweet potatoes; coral and shells; piston engine parts’ cruise or cargo ships and barges; coconuts, Brazil nuts and cashews; miscellaneous machine electrical parts; vanilla; then medicinal plants.
The following types of Tongan 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.
- Vegetables: US$3.9 million (Down by -30.9% since 2017)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $869,000 (Up by 178.5%)
- Oil seeds: $199,000 (Down by -52.3%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $153,000 (Up by 325%)
- Furskins, artificial fur: $6,000 (Reversing a -$4,000 deficit)
- Vegetable plaiting materials: $5,000 (No 2017 data)
- Paper yarn, woven fabric: $4,000 (Down by -125%)
Tonga has highly positive net exports in the international trade of vegetables. In turn, these cashflows indicate Tonga’s strong competitive advantages under the vegetables product category.
Overall, Tonga incurred a -$196.1 million product trade deficit for 2018, up by 62.9% from -$120.4 million one year earlier.
Below are exports from Tonga that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Tonga’s goods trail Tongan importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$38.9 million (Up by 5392.5% since 2017)
- Meat: -$18.8 million (Up by 9.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$16.4 million (Up by 43.3%)
- Machinery including computers: -$10.8 million (Up by 2.8%)
- Vehicles: -$8.8 million (Up by 3.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$8.7 million (Up by 55.9%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$7.2 million (Up by 84.8%)
- Cereal/milk preparations: -$6.5 million (Up by 75.6%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$6.5 million (Up by 38.7%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$5.3 million (Up by 32.1%)
Tonga has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for refined petroleum oils and petroleum gas under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Tongan Export Companies
Not one Tongan corporation ranks on the Forbes Global 2000 list.
Wikipedia lists several trade-related entities in Tonga. A couple of selected examples are shown below:
- Real Tonga (airliner)
- Tonga Ma’a Tonga Kautaha (copra/dried coconut cooperative)
Alibaba is an ecommerce repository where suppliers from Tonga do business. The following are Tongan businesses listed on Alibaba.
- HaiKuuLani Export (fresh kava, frozen taro/tapioca)
- Hingano Import/Export (Kava roots/powder)
- South Pacific MOZUKU (herbs, natural remedies)
- Tannchez (seafood, vegetables, fruits)
Tonga’s capital city is Nukuʻalofa.
See also Top Oceanian Export Countries and New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports
Alibaba, Wholesale Suppliers from Tonga. Accessed on October 28, 2019
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on October 28, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on October 28, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on October 28, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on October 28, 2019
The World Factbook, Australia-Oceania: Tonga. Accessed on October 28, 2019
Trading Economics, Tonga – Unemployment, total. Accessed on October 28, 2019
Wikimedia, Flag of Tonga. Accessed on October 28, 2019
Wikipedia, Category:Companies of Tonga. Accessed on October 28, 2019
Wikipedia, Tonga. Accessed on October 28, 2019