Principal imports are foodstuffs, machinery and transportation equipment, fuels, and lubricants. Civil war has inhibited foreign trade since 1995. Sierra Leone's most important exports are diamonds (45%) and rutile (27%). Other exports include vegetable oil (4.4%), fresh fish (3.9%), shellfish (3.8%), coffee (3.5%), and cocoa (1.7%). In 1999, Sierra Leone shipped 7,000 tons of rutile to the US, the first cargo since the mine was closed by rebels in early 1995.
About half of Sierra Leone's exports go to Belgium, in the form of diamond exports to Antwerp. In 1999, diamond exports fell from a high of $500 million to $30 million. An immense black market for diamonds exists, probably accounting for the majority of exports from Sierra Leone. Principal trading partners in 1998 (in millions of US dollars) were as follows: