Somalia - Country Commercial Guide
Agribusiness and Food
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Somalia’s agricultural sector is the backbone of the economy, contributing to over 70 percent of total GDP, 80 percent of its employment, and about 50 percent of its exports.  The country has over 8.9M hectares of arable land. The country also has two major rivers stretching over 2,500KM.   Even though Somalia has been affected by climate change over the years, the sector offers significant opportunities.  Its rich soils, particularly in the riverine areas, support the year-round production of cereals, pulses, vegetables, and fruit, among other agricultural products.  As the country emerges from years of civil unrest, its sizeable agricultural land is slowly becoming available for farm production.  Major exports include sesame and dried lemons and substantial forestry products, such as gums and resins, to major global destinations.  Though the Middle East remains the primary market for Somalia’s products, improved agricultural inspection and certification systems are opening new markets.  For U.S. exporters, the best prospects are in consumer-oriented products, including pasta, chicken, rice, sugar, sauces, and consignments (tomato, chilis, syrups) among others.  

Leading Sector Opportunities:

  • Crops
  • Livestock


The crop sector is underperforming compared to historical (pre-conflict) output and compared to assessed current potential, with low yields recorded across crop varieties primarily due to poor agricultural practices, low access to technologies, limited extension services, and dilapidated infrastructure.  The Federal Government of Somalia has prioritized improved food security and has initiated several incentives for agribusiness, including duty free imports on all farm inputs and favorable investment allowances and deductions for agricultural machinery and tools.  Besides reduced import taxes, agricultural exports and domestically produced agricultural inputs are not taxed at the port of exit.  Although there is no clearly codified system for tax incentives and exemptions, significant tax exemptions can be negotiated with the Ministry of Agriculture and customs authorities at the federal and state level.

Agricultural production is concentrated mainly in the southern part of the country, where the most fertile land is located, and riverine water irrigation is abundantly available.  Primary agricultural produce includes coarse grains, oil crops, and horticultural crops (i.e. fruits and vegetables).  With a once vibrant banana export industry, years of under-investment has led to a total collapse of the export sector, though new initiatives envision reviving the large plantations with anticipated exports focused on the Middle East.  As part of strengthening government institutions and service delivery, the crop sector has seen several new policies and regulations put in place.

U.S. companies interested in investing in Somalia’s agri-business sector may identify investment opportunities in the following areas, among others:  

Agricultural-inputs: Market analysts assess “agricultural-inputs” present significant opportunities for U.S. investors.  For instance, the seed sector has not seen the introduction of any new hybrid/ improved high-yielding, drought-tolerant varieties.  Almost all seeds that farmers use are ‘recycled’ after harvest with no formal seed system in place.  There are only three small-medium-sized locally owned seed companies and no multinationals present in the market.  The seed sector’s annual market size is estimated at around $30 million, with demand for quality seeds expected to expand annually as areas under production are expected to increase.  According to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, there is a need for private-sector investments in seed multiplication, processing, and distribution.  Registration of new varieties is under the authority of a federal Ministry of Agriculture agency—the Somali Agricultural Regulatory and Inspection Services (SARIS)—which is slowly improving its seed process registration process per International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) standards.

Additionally, several development partners are willing to work with international companies, particularly SMEs willing to export or introduce agribusiness technology to Somalia.  Organic fertilizer use is slowly becoming popular after the 2020 ban on the importation of chemical fertilizers was implemented due to security concerns.  If the ban on chemical fertilizers were to be lifted, analysts have estimated that the demand for fertilizer might grow by an average of nearly 14 percent per year as the land area under production expands.

The pesticide sub-sector has remained unexplored despite significantly increased pest pressure.  Low quality, low efficacity, and cheap imports from Asia dominate the market, though demand for high-quality products is increasing.  According to an estimate from the Ministry of Agriculture, the market size for agrochemicals is $20 million and is expected to grow to $80-100 million by 2030 as land under production increases.  Several opportunities exist as well with international organizations.  For instance, during a recent desert locust outbreak, international partners procured pesticides worth millions of dollars.

Somalia hosts no research and innovation centers operating at scale in the agricultural sector.  Local academic institutions are willing to partner with leading research and private research organizations on dryland farming and climate-smart technologies. Though agricultural production is largely unmechanized at present, some farmers seek new farming technologies, particularly “climate smart” agriculture, green houses, low-cost irrigation systems, solar waterpower systems, and farm tractors.  U.S. companies may find a niche market by selling mechanization and innovative climate-related solutions through local distributors.

Agricultural processing: Somalia has a few unique locally processed goods that investors could potentially source for exports.  For example, high-quality and dehulled sesame seeds are available and may be sourced at a lower price than many competitors.  Somalia has long been known for the quality of its rare and valuable gums and resin products.  These gums and resin grow naturally in the dryland forests in the north.  They include such products as frankincense, myrrh, and Arabic gum.  Used since antiquity in the manufacturing of perfume, food industry, and religious centers, these gums and resins are one of the unique export products from Somalia, with approximately $16 million in value exported to the EU in 2020.

Most food imports come from countries such as UAE and Turkey because there are limited agricultural processors locally.  Agricultural imports stood at $1.19 billion in 2021 and include: wheat, rice, sugar, tomato, juices, and tobacco. U.S. companies can access the Somali food market through distributors or agents, particularly those processing tomato paste, dairy milk, chicken, pasta, sugar, and eggs.  Additionally, market opportunities related to food oil include palm and sunflower oil.

Local entrepreneurs seek supplies of reliable food processing machinery as they try to set up new factories in the country.  Additionally, Somalia is anticipated to import food packaging machinery. For instance, Somalia’s carton market is estimated at $10 million per year, with most packaging products currently being imported from China and the UAE.


The country boasts having high-quality livestock and remains the leading exporter of live animals to the Middle Eastern market.  Major exports include goats, sheep, cattle, and camels.  International companies—mainly based in the Middle East—have chosen Somalia’s livestock for their domestic markets due to quality and proximity.  The sector is expected to grow significantly with increasing government and donor support to improve resilience and market systems.  U.S. companies specializing in animal health products can find local distributorship opportunities and expand their products in the Horn of Africa where animal production is the predominant livelihood.

Information Resources

Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation



Tel: +252 61 2266277


Somalia Investment Promotion Agency (SOMINVEST). 



Tel: +252 61 911153 / Mop 9876643210