That dollar amount reflects a 12.3% increase compared to $2.85 billion five years earlier in 2017.
Year over year, Maltese export sales accelerated by 19.6% from $2.67 billion during 2020.
Malta’s top 5 most valuable exported products are medication mixes in dosage, integrated circuits or microassemblies, unused stamps, processed petroleum oils, and miscellaneous toys including models and puzzles. Combined, that quintet of major Maltese exports accounts for over half (54.5%) of Malta’s overall product sales on international markets.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, Malta’s official currency is the euro. The euro appreciated by 5% against the US dollar since 2017 and strengthened by 3.9% from 2020 to 2021. The stronger European Union currency in 2021 made Malta’s exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
Malta’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 59.4% of products exported from Malta were bought by importers in: Germany (13.1% of Malta’s global total), Italy (9.2%), France (5.8%), Japan (5.5%), Singapore (4.4%), Hong Kong (4.1%), United States (4%), United Kingdom (3.9%), Greece (2.6%), Hungary (2.4%), mainland China (2.3%) and South Korea (2%).
From a continental perspective, 55.1% of Malta’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 28.1% were sold to importers in Asia. Malta shipped another 9.7% worth of goods to Africa.
Smaller percentages went to buyers in North America (5.7%), Latin America (1.3%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.2%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Malta’s population of 516,000 people, its total $3.2 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $6,200 for every resident in the small island country. That dollar metric exceeds the average $5,300 per capital one year earlier during 2020.
Malta’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups garnered the highest dollar value in Maltese global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Malta.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$739.3 million (23.1% of total exports)
- Pharmaceuticals: $497.9 million (15.6%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: $331.3 million (10.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $304.2 million (9.5%)
- Fish: $205.2 million (6.4%)
- Toys, games: $164.5 million (5.1%)
- Machinery including computers: $131.3 million (4.1%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $123.4 million (3.9%)
- Organic chemicals: $113.8 million (3.6%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $96.2 million (3%)
Malta’s top 10 exports accounted for 84.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 245.2% from 2020 to 2021. That product category was propelled by higher global sales of Maltese refined petroleum oils.
In second place for improving export sales were organic chemicals via a 64.4% advance.
Malta’s shipments of fish posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 26.9%.
The leading decliner among Malta’s top 10 export categories was aircraft and spacecraft, thanks to a -21.2% year-over-year drop.
At the more detailed Harmonized Tariff System code level, Malta’s most valuable export product are medication mixes in dosage (15.3% of total), electronic integrated circuits or microassemblies (15.1%), unused stamps (9.7%), refined petroleum oils (9.4%), models, puzzles and miscellaneous toys (5.1%), fish fillets and pieces (4.4%), lower-voltage switches or fuses (3.9%), aircraft parts (2.5%), items made from vulcanized rubber (2.2%), then whole fresh fish (1.9%).
Products Generating Malta’s Largest Trade Surpluses
The following types of Maltese 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.
- Books, newspapers, pictures: US$308.5 million (Up by 12.3% since 2020)
- Toys, games: $129 million (Down by -7.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $113.8 million (Up by 31.8%)
- Fish: $84.2 million (Up by 10%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $42.5 million (Up by 19.2%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: $32.6 million (Up by 21.3%)
- Organic chemicals: $30.9 million (Reversing an -$18.4 million deficit)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $22.2 million (Down by -36.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $4.5 million (Down by -81.7%)
- Woodpulp: $4.4 million (Up by 128.3%)
Malta has highly positive net exports in the international trade of printed books, newspapers and pictures. In turn, these cashflows indicate Malta’s strong competitive advantages under the books, newspapers and pictures category.
Products Causing Malta’s Worst Trade Deficits
Malta incurred an overall -$3.9 billion trade deficit during 2021, expanding by 51.2% from -$2.6 billion in 2020.
Below are exports from Malta that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Malta’s goods trail Maltese importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$945.4 million (Up by 15.5% since 2020)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$851.5 million (Up by 80%)
- Ships, boats: -$563.4 million (Up by 147.8%)
- Machinery including computers: -$283.7 million (Up by 42.9%)
- Vehicles: -$210.8 million (Up by 23.2%)
- Paper, paper items: -$134.2 million (Up by 11.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$122.6 million (Up by 33.2%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$96.2 million (Up by 37.6%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$78.2 million (Up by 22.9%)
- Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: -$74.3 million (Up by 26.7%)
Malta has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Malta’s Export Companies
Given how small Malta is, it should come as no surprise that not one Maltese corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia does list Maltese companies that engage in international trade. Selected examples are shown below:
- Air Malta plc (airliner)
- Emmanuel Delicata (wine)
- Simonds Farsons Cisk plc (beverages including beer)
In macroeconomic terms, Malta’s total exported goods represent 12.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($25.6 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 12.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 12.4% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Malta’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Malta’s unemployment rate averaged 3.55% for 2021, down from an average 4.367% in 2020 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Malta’s capital city is Valletta, the smallest national capital in the European Union.
See also Malta’s Top Trading Partners, Germany’s Top Trading Partners, Italy’s Top Trading Partners, France’s Top Trading Partners and Japan’s Top Trading Partners
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Europe: Malta. Accessed on August 6, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 6, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average)
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 6, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 6, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 6, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on August 6, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malta. Accessed on August 6, 2022
Wikipedia, Malta. Accessed on August 6, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on August 6, 2022