Maldives flag Maldives: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of the Maldives

Foreign Trade in Figures

The Maldives, which is composed of 1,200 islands, depends heavily on trade, which represents around 143% of the GDP (World Bank, latest data available). The state budget relies primarily on revenues from import duties; therefore, tariffs are relatively high (the average applied tariff rate is 10.6% according to the World Bank). However, as part of its trade policy, the government has removed quotas for the majority of products, and customs procedures have been simplified (obtaining an import license is almost automatic). The State Trading Organisation (STO) remains the country's largest importer, but the government is seeking to include more private partners. Fish products account for almost the entirety of Maldivian exports (93% in 2023), while imports are led by hydrocarbons (22%), transport equipment (19%), food items (19%), and machinery (8% - data Maldives Monetary Authority 2023).

In 2023, the Asian market maintained its dominance as the primary export destination for Maldivian exports, holding a significant share of 66%. Following closely was the European market, capturing a share of 31% during the same period. Within the Asian market, Thailand emerged as the leading export destination, constituting 54% of total Maldivian exports in 2023, marking an increase from 49% in 2022. Meanwhile, the share of exports to India experienced a slight decline, reaching 3%. Furthermore, the UK emerged as the top European export market, representing 14% of total Maldivian exports in 2023—an impressive rise from the 9% recorded in 2022. Following behind, Germany and France constituted the second and third largest export markets from the region, respectively. In terms of import sources, the majority, constituting 84% of total imports, originated from Asia. India led the way, contributing the highest share of imports to the Maldives at 16%, followed by Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Imports from Europe, accounting for 9% of the total, experienced a decline of 7% (equivalent to USD 24.3 million) during the year. Among European suppliers, while Germany witnessed a notable increase in imports to the Maldives, this growth was somewhat mitigated by declines in imports from France and the Netherlands (data Maldives Monetary Authority).

The country possesses few raw materials and, as such, relies heavily on imported oil and finished products. As a result, the Maldives imports much more than it exports, which creates a structural trade deficit. According to the Maldives Monetary Authority, in 2023, total merchandise exports, comprising domestic exports (38%) and re-exports (62%), saw a 5% increase, totaling USD 421.4 million. This uptick was primarily fueled by a significant rise in re-exports earnings. Conversely, total merchandise imports (c.i.f) experienced a marginal 1% decrease, totaling USD 3.5 billion by the end of 2023 compared to the previous year. The decline in merchandise imports was chiefly driven by a notable 9% decrease in import expenditure on all petroleum products, especially diesel (marine gas oil), reflecting the global decline in crude oil prices during the year. Despite a slight increase in the volume of such imports, the average global crude oil prices dropped to USD 80.8 per barrel in 2023, down from USD 97.1 per barrel in 2022. As a tourism-dependent economy, the surplus on the services account plays a crucial role in the Maldives' current account. In 2023, however, the surplus on the services account decreased by USD 333.9 million, amounting to a total of USD 2.8 billion, down from an estimated USD 3.1 billion in the previous year.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 2,8881,8382,5733,5163,497
Exports of Goods (million USD) 361286285400421
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,3377401,0921,589n/a
Exports of Services (million USD) 3,3811,5293,6994,696n/a

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 153.8147.9117.8143.1n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -2,425-2,392-1,451-2,107-2,916
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -518-348-662501191
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 12.8-0.3-41.135.2n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 10.56.7-51.489.5n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 83.778.468.467.8n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 70.169.449.475.3n/a

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20232024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -1.05.417.06.96.6
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -2.7-0.511.64.04.9

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Member of South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC)
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2023
Thailand 53.9%
United Kingdom 13.7%
Germany 7.8%
France 3.4%
India 3.2%
See More Countries 17.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2023
India 15.6%
Oman 15.1%
United Arab Emirates 12.9%
China 11.6%
Singapore 9.2%
See More Countries 35.5%

Source: Comtrade, 2024. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

0.2 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish...Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 57.1%
Prepared or preserved fish; caviar and caviar...Prepared or preserved fish; caviar and caviar substitutes prepared from fish eggs 20.9%
Fish fillets and other fish meat, whether or not...Fish fillets and other fish meat, whether or not minced, fresh, chilled or frozen 8.8%
Fish, fresh or chilled (excl. fish fillets and...Fish, fresh or chilled (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 3.5%
Ferrous waste and scrap; remelting scrap ingots of...Ferrous waste and scrap; remelting scrap ingots of iron or steel (excl. slag, scale and other waste from the production of iron or steel; radioactive waste and scrap; fragments of pigs, blocks or other primary forms of pig iron or spiegeleisen) 3.1%
See More Products 6.6%
3.5 bn USD of products imported in 2022
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 23.1%
Powered aircraft "e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes...Powered aircraft "e.g. helicopters and aeroplanes"; spacecraft, incl. satellites, and suborbital and spacecraft launch vehicles 2.0%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 1.9%
Insulated "incl. enamelled or anodised" wire,...Insulated "incl. enamelled or anodised" wire, cable "incl. coaxial cable" and other insulated electric conductors, whether or not fitted with connectors; optical fibre cables, made up of individually sheathed fibres, whether or not assembled with electric conductors or fitted with connectors 1.6%
Bars and rods, of iron or non-alloy steel, not...Bars and rods, of iron or non-alloy steel, not further worked than forged, hot-rolled, hot-drawn or hot-extruded, but incl. those twisted after rolling (excl. in irregularly wound coils) 1.5%
See More Products 69.9%

Source: Comtrade, 2024. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import-Export Flows.

 

Main Services

4.7 bn USD of services exported in 2022
95.79%
2.84%
0.84%
0.31%
0.22%
n/a%
1.6 bn USD of services imported in 2022
34.41%
29.48%
19.40%
6.08%
3.97%
3.66%
1.77%
0.95%
0.26%
0.02%
n/a%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2024. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: May 2024