COUNTRYAAH, Kiribati's most important industries are agriculture,
mostly as self-catering, as well as fishing on a local
scale. The soil is barren, and the most common crops are
bananas and fruits from coconut palms and pandanus palms
(related screw palms), papaya and breadfruit trees. During
the 1980s, copra agriculture was the only export commodity
but a very uncertain source of income due to recurring
drought and highly fluctuating world market prices. A new
crop is seagrass, which is grown exclusively for export to
Denmark; it supplemented Copran as an export commodity
during the 1990s. With foreign aid, commercial fishing has
also begun to develop, focusing mainly on tuna.
The manufacturing industry is poorly developed. In
Tarawa, a small center was established in 1990 for the
manufacture of clothing, shoes, furniture and other consumer
The current account deficit grew gradually during the
1980s and 1990s. Exports mainly consist of copra, coconuts,
fish and fish products and seagrass and mainly went to
France, Japan and the USA. Imports, which came mainly from
Australia, Fiji and Japan, consisted primarily of food,
machinery and transport.
In addition to export revenue, licenses that allow
fishing fleets from, for example, Taiwan, South Korea and
Japan to fish within the 200-nautical mile limit as well as
growing tourism provide important revenue for the country.
In 1995, an agreement was reached between Kiribati, Tuvalu,
Nauru and the Marshall Islands to start a joint airline,
among other things, to develop the tourism industry.
Tourism and gastronomy
Today, tourism contributes about 20 percent of GDP and
the hope is that it will increase. However, the country is
difficult to access, and it will probably take time before
the 5,000 annual tourists increase to any significant
extent. Attempts to increase tourism are made, for example,
by opening several war scenes from the Second World War.
The base of the kitchen is seafood combined with coconut,
fresh fruit, taro and jams. The latter two are included in
almost every meal. Pork is very popular, chicken as well.
Whole roast pork served on banana leaves is ritual feast
food, like palusami, meat or shrimp and onions
cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in taro leaves.