Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, Malta uses the euro which appreciated by 3.1% against the US dollar since 2016 and increased by 2% from 2019 to 2020. The stronger EU currency in 2020 made Malta’s exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 66% of products exported from Malta were bought by importers in: Germany (16.8% of the global total), France (9%), Italy (6.9%), Hong Kong (5.6%), Singapore (5.5%), Japan (5.5%), United States (4.9%), Libya (2.6%), Philippines (2.5%), Hungary (2.3%), Poland (2.2%) and Netherlands (also 2.2%).
From a continental perspective, 52.2% of Malta’s exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 29.6% were sold to importers in Asia. Malta shipped another 11.0% worth of goods to Africa. Smaller percentages went to North America (6.1%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.0%) then Oceania led by Australia (0.2%).
Given Malta’s population of 502,000 people, its total $2.7 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $5,300 for every resident in the small island country.
Malta’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups garnered the highest dollar value in Maltese global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Malta.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$690.9 million (25.8% of total exports)
- Pharmaceuticals: $410 million (15.3%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: $294.3 million (11%)
- Fish: $165.4 million (6.2%)
- Toys, games: $164.6 million (6.1%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $153.8 million (5.7%)
- Machinery including computers: $118.4 million (4.4%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $111.2 million (4.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $91.5 million (3.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $89.2 million (3.3%)
Malta’s top 10 exports accounted for 85.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Three of the top export categories increased from 2019 to 2020 namely books, newspapers and pictures (up 32.2%), pharmaceuticals (up 28.1%) and optical, technical and medical apparatus (up 22.9%).
The leading decliner among Malta’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to a -92.5% drop year over year.
At the more detailed Harmonized Tariff System code level, Malta’s most valuable export product is electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies (18.7% of total), medication mixes in dosage (15.1%), unused stamps (9.8%), models, puzzles and miscellaneous toys (6.1%), lower-voltage switches or fuses (3.9%), refined petroleum oils (3.3%) then aircraft parts (also 3.9%).
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$274.7 million (Up by 35.5% since 2019)
- Toys, games: $139.5 million (Down by -2.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $112 million (Up by 44.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $87.5 million (Up by 68.4%)
- Fish: $78.7 million (Down by -1.4%)
- Miscellaneous food preparations: $36.3 million (Up by 7.9%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $35.7 million (Down by -12.3%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: $27 million (Up by 5.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $25.2 million (Reversing a -$44,000 deficit)
- Woodpulp: $1.9 million (Up by 7.2%)
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.
Overall, Malta incurred a -$2.5 billion trade deficit during 2020 down by 37.5% from -$4.1 billion in 2019.
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$820 million (Down by -8.7% since 2019)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$461.4 million (Up by 49.7%)
- Ships, boats: -$223.3 million (Down by -85.7%)
- Machinery including computers: -$198.7 million (Down by -9.1%)
- Vehicles: -$171.2 million (Down by -22%)
- Paper, paper items: -$120.7 million (Up by 12.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$92 million (Down by -2.5%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$70.3 million (Down by -10.7%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$63.8 million (Down by -24.8%)
- Meat: -$60.3 million (Down by -14.1%)
Malta has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category.
Maltese 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 12.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($21.6 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 12.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 13.1% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing 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 average unemployment rate was 4.2% for 2020, down from 3.633% one year earlier 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 and Top EU Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Europe: Malta. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 4, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on April 4, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 4, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malta. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Wikipedia, Malta. Accessed on April 4, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on April 4, 2021