The very special function to which the group of these islands is called due to its position and current political relevance, decisively influences their economic activity, animating their transit trade, which is very lively at all times; but also agricultural practices have found ample development there, despite the very unfavorable natural conditions (scarcity of arable land due to the absolute prevalence of limestone, lack of rainfall, long summer droughts, violent winds, etc.). Two thirds of the archipelago can be considered rebellious to any exploitation, but the arable area (today about 20 thousand hectares) is quite fertile due to the richness of phosphates and soluble alkalis, and sometimes allows two and even three harvests every year. The terrain, consolidated and protected with tenacious care by means of terraces and low walls from the danger of rainwater and winds, it is divided into an overwhelming number (about 11 thousand) of small plots, which are rented for periods of rule from 4 to 8 years. There is a great variety of crops, among which cereals (wheat, barley, and even maize), potatoes, vegetables, legumes, cotton, cumin and tobacco prevail, as well as fodder (especially the sulla), with which the relatively intense breeding of domestic animals is related (27 thousand goats, 19 thousand sheep, 10 thousand horses, and 4 thousand cattle in 1931; pigs, rabbits and chickens are also widespread). Of the fruit plants, which are also varied and numerous, the olive tree, the almond tree, the carob tree, the fig tree are of greater importance.
However, agricultural production is not enough for local consumption and only a few kinds of products remain an excess destined for export (potatoes, onions, cumin seeds). The area cultivated with cotton measured just 150 ha in 1931-32. and allowed a harvest of 81,000 pounds; on the same date, the value of the entire agricultural production did not exceed 700 thousand pounds.
A considerable asset of income provided the residents of the archipelago with fishing, which the intense exploitation and use of too dense mesh nets have been gradually impoverishing; however, there are 780 fishing boats, which employed about 3,500 people in 1930-31, allowing for a gain of 34,300 pounds pounds (compared to 45,000 in 1925). For Malta business, please check cheeroutdoor.com.
The industries have been driven by the needs of the numerous military garrison (about 10 thousand English residents) and the British fleet stationed in the bays of Malta: in addition to the mills (also biscuit factories), the cotton mill, the tobacco manufactures (cigarettes) and the match factories, all concentrated on the main island. More than cotton spinning, the production of bobbin lace is typical of household industries, which employs about 5000 women.
Maritime traffic reached the following figures in 1028-29:
The movement of imports marks a significant contraction in value in the last five years (from 4.3 to 3.8 million pounds from 1927 to 1931) and an even stronger one that of exports (from 1.0 to 0.5 million. of pounds in the same period). The main items of this trade appear from the table below.
In the value of the imports recorded for 1931, goods from Great Britain entered for 921,606 pounds, those from the English colonies for 243,536 (altogether just over 31% of the total); in the value of exports goods destined for Great Britain for 24,099 pounds and 14,174 to the colonies (overall just 7.6% of the total). The greater part of the traffic is therefore carried out with the other Mediterranean countries and in the first place with Italy, from which large quantities of wheat, fish and fruit are imported (especially from Sicily).