The ocean is undoubtedly the country's most important resource. FSM's exclusive economic zone covers some 2.6 million square kilometers of ocean which contain the world's most productive tuna fishing grounds. The tuna resources include both surface schooling and deep water species. The approximate market value per year of tuna harvested within the nation is about $200 million.
Institutions concerned with commercial fisheries include the Micronesian Maritime Authority (MMA), the National Fisheries Corporation (NFC) and various state entities. The MMA was established in 1978 to regulate the conservation, management and exploitation of marine resources within the 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while the primary role of the NFC is, "to promote the development of pelagic fisheries and related industries within the extended fishery zone for the benefit of the people of the Federated States of Micronesia."
The Micronesia Maritime and Fisheries Academy in the State of Yap has been set up to provide effective training in maritime and fisheries technologies at both high school and college levels, to cater for the growing demand for trained personnel in the expanding fishing industry.
At present, although the nation has full ownership of tuna stocks capable of a sustained yield of well over 100,000 tons each year, there is virtually no national participation in its exploitation. The commencement of national involvement, through state, NFC or other entities, will therefore of necessity involve a major developmental activity and the investment of significant funds. Already the states of Pohnpei and Kosrae have embarked on the construction and installation of cold storage and tuna processing plants, involving several million dollars which will provide added facilities for longline and purse seiner vessels, and storage capacity for transshipment or processing at future dates. Both plants are expected to be operational in their first stages of development this year. The state of Yap, on the other hand, is the major shareholder in the Yap Fishing Corporation, which owns a number of purse seiners and plans to invest some $20 million in its fishing fleet. The other partners in the venture are the NFC and an US-based company.
Agriculture is the most important primary activity in the nation because of its contribution to employment, wage income, export earnings, and subsistence production. Agricultural activities provide over 60% of the food consumed, and employ almost 50% of the labor force on a full-time or seasonal basis.
With one exception, fully commercial agriculture does not exist. On Pohnpei, a commercial pepper farm has been started with extensive cropping of about 100 acres targeted for production over the next five years.
Copra remains the ubiquitous cash crop throughout the FSM, but production has decreased substantially due to low prices for copra coupled with increasing sterility of the coconut palms.
In Kosrae, citrus is a significant cash crop with limes and tangerines being exported. Periodically, Yap exports bananas, other vegetables, fruits, and betel nut to Guam and Palau.
Farmstead livestock production is increasingly important throughout the FSM, particularly poultry, eggs and pork.
Goats are becoming increasingly important in some areas, with goat meat production in Pohnpei doubling over recent years.
Insignificant numbers of large ruminants continue to be raised, with 120 head of cattle and 70 head of buffalo in Pohnpei. There are also a few head of cattle in Kosrae and buffalo in Chuuk.
Primary industrial processing occurs on Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap. Ponape Coconut Products, Inc. continues to develop a number of coconut oil products including laundry soap, shampoo, body and hair oil, cooking oil, liquid soap and suntan oil. Some high quality charcoal is also being produced from coconut shell on Pohnpei as a by-product of the coconut oil industry.
Pepper (piper nigrum) is being industrially processed and packaged on Pohnpei to supply both the local tourist market and export markets. White pepper is being produced as a cottage industry, and is primarily sold locally to tourists. A small kimchee factory operates on Pohnpei using locally grown cucumber and head cabbage.
The copra processing plant on Chuuk manufactures laundry soap and plans to produce a similar variety of products as the Pohnpei plant in the near future.
Yap processes fiber from coconut husks into brooms, brushes, ropes and mats. Also in Yap, a small abattoir has been established, capable of slaughtering animals for the local market.
Each state in the FSM has extensive forest cover, although on the low atoll islands, and the littoral slopes of the high islands, the forest cover is better described as an agro-forestry complex with a scattered secondary forest on long-fallow within the traditional gardening system.
Scattered use of forest resources occur across all states. Timber is cut for subsistence farmsteads for construction and firewood. Mangrove timber is used for handicrafts, and both upland and mangrove timber is used for furniture making.
Privately-owned sawmills have operated at one time or another in each state, selling rough sawn timber in the local market for construction. At present, only two saw mills on Pohnpei are operating commercially; one in Kitti logging mangrove cedar, and one in Kolonia utilizing upland timber.
In years to come, the development of deep seabed mining techniques also may offer a significant source of income for the Nation.