Over the years, the value of Sierra Leone's exports has steadily declined as the value of imports has risen, forcing the country to bear the burden of an increasing trade deficit . In 1998 exports were valued at $17 million, and imports totaled $92 million. The World Fact-book estimated that exports had increased to US$65
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Sierra Leone|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
million and imports to US$145 million by 2000. Chief trading partners for exports are the United States, Britain, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany. Leading sources for imports are the United States, Britain, Italy, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Indonesia, and Germany. Despite some successful efforts to increase the output of agricultural productivity and diversify exports, Sierra Leone's balance of visible trade has still been unfavorable. The balance of trade has also suffered from an increase in short-term debts, and the deterioration of terms of trade related to the sharp increases in the price of petroleum products and manufactured goods from the industrial world. These increases exceeded those of agricultural produce, diamonds, and bauxite.
Prior to the war, the domestic market was favored by the growing tourist trade, while the policy of non-discriminatory tariffs served the interests of consumers by keeping prices relatively low. The National Trading Company set up in 1971 with government financial assistance, also ensured the maintenance of competitive prices on the home market, and the promotion of indigenous enterprise in commerce.