Traditionally, seaborne trade played an important role in the Islands' economy. Today, agriculture is the principal economic activity with crops grown both for domestic consumption and export. The major food crops are cassava, coconut, bananas, rice, sweet potatoes, pulses, and corn. Vanilla, ylang-ylang, cloves, and copra have been the major export crops.
The Comoros are the world's leading producer of the essence of ylang-ylang, a key ingredient of many leading perfumes. Between 33 and 44 tons are distilled each year mainly on the island of Nzwani (Anjouan), where there are over 300 distilleries. An eight (8) gallon container of the essential oil is worth several thousand dollars today. The Comoros also produce a large percentage of the world’s vanilla beans.
Some animal husbandry by individuals exists and a small scale fishing industry provides seafood for local consumption.
There is a small, growing tourist industry on the Islands. With the recent investment in hotels by the country of Dubai, the tourist industry will probably see extensive expansion in the near future. For information about this industry and others in the Comorian Union, contact the Chamber of Commerce in Moroni (Tel. 269 773-0958).
The domestic economy is largely dependent upon remittances from family members abroad, mostly in France, and the Islands have a relatively large negative trade balance. The government has been for many years dependent upon external aid. France has been the major source of this aid and has been their major trading partner. In recent years, there has been an increase in aid from China and an increasing interest in trade relations between the Islands and Eastern African countries. For information on U.S. trade with the Comoros click here.
The currency of the country is the Comorian franc (KMF). It was originally pegged to the French franc at 50 Comorian francs to 1 French franc. Its value today is tied to the Euro at an exchange rate of 491.96775 KMF to 1 Euro. To find the current rate of exchange for the U.S. Dollar click here. There are banks on the islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Mayotte but no bank on Moheli. The banks are open Monday through Friday mornings.
See the World Bank for an excellent overview of the economic status of the country.