Sudan's industrial sector has been buffeted by a series of events leading to a significant contraction of output. Foreign exchange was very scarce in the 1980s and led to shortages of raw materials, skilled labor, and energy. In February 1985, the granting of import licenses and letters of credit was suspended. Over 100 manufacturing enterprises shut down as a result. By 1989, many factories were thought to be operating at 5% of capacity. Industry contributed 17% to GDP in 1999.
Prior to this difficult period, Sudan's industries supplied many items that had formerly been imported—cotton textiles, sugar, hides and skins, cement, tires, flour, soap, shoes, cigarettes, batteries, sesame oil, biscuits, confectionery, household appliances, paints and varnishes, and plastics. Textiles, the largest industry, were part of a decade-long (1985–95) rehabilitation project. There are a number of cotton ginning plants, including the large Gezira plant. Sudan has a sizeable number of spinning and weaving mills.
The country's reserves of oil and gas are vast, and Sudan is considered to be underexplored. There are three oil refineries, with a total production capacity of 122,000 barrels per day.
Other factories process cotton seed and groundnuts into oil and cake. The Kenana sugar complex, commissioned in 1980, is one of the largest sugar plantation and refining installations in the world, jointly owned by the Sudanese government, the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and other private interests.