Sierra Leone - Country Commercial Guide
Agriculture Sector
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The agriculture sector, including livestock and forestry, is a critical component of the economy. It employs about two-thirds of the labor force and contributes more than 50 percent of the country’s GDP. The country is endowed with a favorable agricultural environment comprising arable land, abundant rainfall, a temperate climate, and several rivers with significant irrigation potential that could support the production of food for both domestic consumption and export.

The World Food Program’s 2020 Emergency Food Security Monitoring System report estimated that 80 percent of foodstuffs consumed in the country are imported. In 2022, the United States exported a total value of $21.18 million in agricultural products to Sierra Leone. Yet of an estimated 5.4 million hectares of fertile arable land, 75 percent remains uncultivated. The land is suitable for the cultivation of a wide range of crops, including rice, cassava, maize, millet, cashew, rubber, ginger, vegetables, fruits, sugarcane, cocoa, coffee, and oil palm, as well as the rearing of livestock. 

Currently, smallholder subsistence farmers dominate the sector utilizing local traditional tools with outdated methods and limited farm inputs. However, a few commercial agricultural companies operate in producing biofuels and energy, palm oil, timber, rice, sorghum, growing and canning pineapples, manufacturing juice concentrates, and providing agricultural machinery contracting services. Illegal logging of tropical hardwoods – much of it linked to the People’s Republic of China – is a serious and ongoing problem that imperils the viability of the forestry sector.

Rice is the staple food for Sierra Leoneans, and its cultivation employs most of the rural population. Rice is consumed daily by almost every household and is exported to neighboring countries, including Guinea and Liberia.  Despite local production, the country remains dependent on rice to meet local needs and imported 480,000 tons in 2022. In 2023, the Government of Sierra Leone launched its National Agricultural Transformation Program with the goal of doubling rice production from existing levels and attracting foreign investors. In its 2024 Finance Bill, Sierra Leone imposed a new 5% import duty on rice in order to encourage import substitution. That import duty is slated to increase to 10% in 2025.

Sierra Leone has one of the world’s richest fishing grounds, with 506 kilometers of coastline and a continental shelf of 27,500 square kilometers nourished by several major rivers. The country boasts 200 fish species, with a viable commercial fish stock of over 80 species. These include shrimp, cephalopods, lobster, demersal, and pelagic species. 

Fishery contributes over 10 percent to GDP, with an annual production estimated at 228,000 tons, and provides an estimated 80 percent of animal protein for the population. It offers direct employment to some 200,000 persons and indirect employment to some 600,000 persons along the coastlines. The sectoris challenged by poor governance and management regimes, weak infrastructure and fishery support services, overfishing, and is severely impacted by illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing – much of it by vessels from the People’s Republic of China.

In 2021, the government signed a $55 million partnership agreement with the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the construction of an industrial fish harbor complex with transshipment facilities. The complex will reportedly provide cold storage facilities, bonded stores, ice sales, purchase of fish and fishery products for export, and the maintenance of fishing and patrol vessels. Although the agreement was finalized in 2022, there has been little movement in development, and it is unclear when/if the project will be completed.

President Bio has made development in the agricultural sector a priority of his second term through the “Feed Salone” initiative, as outlined in the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) 2023 manifesto, which aims to ignite agricultural productivity, safeguard food insecurity, foster inclusive economic growth, and lay a foundation for sustained prosperity.

Leading Sub-sectors 

Rice, oil palm, cocoa, coffee, cassava, groundnut, vegetables, fruits, and livestock are the leading sub-sectors. Locally produced  rice, the staple food, accounts for only a very small fraction of what is consumed annually, and the government is looking for investors to boost production and reduce the large annual imports that are exhausting the country’s limited foreign exchange. The cultivation of cassava provides for the industrial production of flour and reduces the need for its importation. U.S investors can venture into the rehabilitation of existing cocoa or coffee plantations or establish new plantations.

The supply of agricultural inputs like fertilizer, improved seeds, agrochemicals, animal feeds, and veterinary inputs is another important sector. Partnerships with local farmers to expand cultivation, establish adequate storage and preservation facilities, and value-added chains are aspects that will eliminate post-harvest wastages of especially perishable crops such as vegetables and fruits.

Domestic production is not sufficient to meet the local demand for protein, and livestock production in cattle, sheep, goat, pig, and poultry farming has a large market all year round. Production of animal feed may provide a promising opportunity for investment, as well as offer opportunities for export from the United States of component ingredients such as soybean and fishmeal.


The top five agricultural sectoral opportunities in Sierra Leone are food crops, cash crops, horticultural crops, livestock, and agro-inputs. Food crops such as rice, the staple food, are an essential agricultural commodity that helps meet the country’s food security needs. It is an attractive investment driven by its ecology and duty-free access to ECOWAS and other markets. Cash crops grown include cocoa, coffee, and oil palm, with cocoa generating the highest export earnings. Horticultural crops include the production of pineapples, bananas, mangos, avocados, tomatoes, eggplants, and citrus fruits, with pineapples having the highest yield in the region. Livestock includes cattle, sheep, goat, pig, and poultry farming. Its supply is insufficient to meet demand, an opportunity for investors to tap into.

Agro-inputs will improve yields and production output, as more modern agro-technology and mechanized equipment are required to develop the sector. The primary constraints facing the agricultural and fishery sectors are the lack of modern technology and mechanized equipment available for the cultivation of crops and the processing and preservation of fish catch. Supplying labor-saving agricultural equipment like tractors, power tillers, plows, and harvesters are opportunities for U.S. exporters and investors. The topography generally offers potential for irrigation, and cultivation can have up to three cycles in a year, particularly for rice. As mentioned above, land issues and community opposition have presented major obstacles to direct investment in primary production. A useful rule of thumb to follow is that if a commercial investment depends on government or other concessions for its economic viability, it is likely not a sound investment.

Adding value to agricultural and fishery products through processing and manufacturing presents an opportunity for U.S. investors for both domestic and the international markets. Other cross-cutting areas like agro-logistics and packaging are required to enable local production to reach international markets. Investment opportunities also exist in fish processing and value addition, with significant economic potential for high-valued exportable fish including snapper, grouper, catfish, barracuda, tuna, cuttlefish, squid, lobsters, and herring.  When investing in fisheries and processing, investors should be particularly attentive to the negative environmental impacts and the community opposition they may engender.  They will also need to develop facilities that meet U.S. and/or EU export requirements for these products, as none currently exist in Sierra Leone.

Top 10 U.S. Agricultural Exports to Sierra Leone in 2022
CommodityTotal Value (USD)Total Volume (Metric Tons)10-Year Average Value (USD)10-Year Growth
Poultry Meat & Prods. (excl. eggs)$10.37 Million7,338$7.86 Million15%
Condiments & Sauces$8.1 Million3,057$9.7 Million86%
Food Preparations$588,213200$784,721-13%
Rice$584,7761,070$1.18 Million1514%
Other Consumer Oriented$547,250163$391,95295%
Vegetable Oils (excl. soybean)$481,655191$424,065-56%
Dairy Products$56,17014$143,398-86%
Non-Alcoholic Bev. (excl. juices)$24,500$213,901-65%

Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service


Office of Agricultural Affairs, U.S. Embassy Accra (Covers: Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo)
Telephone: (011-233-302) 741-421 or 741-598
Embassy: (011-233-302) 741-000
Fax: (011-233-302) 741-478

Sierra Leone Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Telephone: (+232) 79 146533