A group of 36 inhabited islands in the South Pacific, the Kingdom of Tonga shipped an estimated US$15.8 million worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 29.9% increase since 2015 and a 14.4% uptick from 2018 to 2019.
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%), United States Minor Outlying Islands (0.8%) and Taiwan (0.6%).
Given Tonga’s population of 100,000 people, its total $15.8 million in 2019 exports translates to about $160 for every resident in the South Pacific nation.
Tonga’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Tongan global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Tonga.
- Vegetables: US$5.4 million (34.1% of total exports)
- Fish: $3.5 million (22%)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $1.35 million (8.5%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $1.33 million (8.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $565,000 (3.6%)
- Oil seeds: $475,000 (3%)
- Fruits, nuts: $434,000 (2.7%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $309,000 (2%)
- Machinery including computers: $304,000 (1.9%)
- Copper: $181,000 (1.1%)
Tonga’s top 10 exports accounted for 87.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Collector items, art and antiques represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 775.3% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was copper via its 241.5% gain. Tonga’s shipments of miscellaneous animal-origin products posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 49.1%.
The leading decliner among Tonga’s top 10 export categories was machinery including computers thanks to a -66.4% drop year over year.
At the more granular Harmonized Tariff System code tariff-line, Tonga’s most valuable exported products in 2019 were miscellaneous fresh or chilled vegetables (20.5% of its global total); whole fresh fish (17.7%); manioc roots, Jerusalem artichokes and sweet potatoes (13.6%); coral and shells (8.4%); antiques over 100 years old (also 8.4%); and aquatic invertebrates excluding crustaceans and molluscs (2.5%).
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$4.3 million (Up by 7.7% since 2018)
- Collector items, art, antiques: $1.35 million (Up by 775.3%)
- Miscellaneous animal-origin products: $1.3 million (Up by 49.6%)
- Oil seeds: $404,000 (Up by 94.2%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $259,000 (Up by 4,217%)
- Copper: $53,000 (Reversing a -$229,000)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $6,000 (Reversing an -$11,000 deficit)
- Vegetable plaiting materials: $2,000 (Down by -60%)
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 an estimated -$121.8 million product trade deficit for 2019, down by -34.1% from -$184.9 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.
- Meat: -US$18.9 million (Up by 0.6% since 2018)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$15.9 million (Up by 2.8%)
- Machinery including computers: -$8.8 million (Up by 13.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$7.4 million (Down by -10.8%)
- Vehicles: -$5.7 million (Down by -10.9%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: -$5.3 million (Down by -16.1%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$4.7 million (Down by -32.2%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: -$4.6 million (Down by -9.7%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$3.8 million (Down by -23.3%)
- Wood: -$3.4 million (Down by -33%)
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)
In macroeconomic terms, Tonga’s total exported goods represent 2.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($650 million valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 2.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 11.1% for 2018. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Tonga’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Tonga’s average unemployment rate was 1.117% in 2019, up from 1.05% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Tonga’s capital city is Nukuʻalofa.
See also Top Oceanian Export Countries, Australia’s Top 10 Exports and New Zealand’s Top 10 Exports
Alibaba, Wholesale Suppliers from Tonga. Accessed on June 21, 2020
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Australia-Oceania: Tonga. Accessed on June 21, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 21, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 21, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 21, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 21, 2020
Trading Economics, Tonga – Unemployment, total. Accessed on June 21, 2020
Wikimedia, Flag of Tonga. Accessed on June 21, 2020
Wikipedia, Category:Companies of Tonga. Accessed on June 21, 2020
Wikipedia, Tonga. Accessed on June 21, 2020