Up-to-date reliable information on the international trade of Somalia is hard to discover, thus much of what is presented here is based on the structure before 1991. Somalia's foreign trade deficit , which was almost entirely financed by foreign aid, increased to around US$300 million in 1987. The trade balance remained negative throughout 1980s and early 1990s. The last reliable reported figures were for 1990, when exports were US$130 million and imports US$360 million. Surprisingly, there has not been much material change in the decade since those statistics were released: estimates for 1998 were that exports were US$87 million and imports US$327 million. The main difference is that prior to 1991, the trade deficit was met by aid receipts, while currently it is covered by remittances from the Somali diaspora.
Export composition has remained largely unchanged, consisting of mainly agricultural raw materials and food products with livestock and bananas the principal items, followed by hides and skins, fish and fish products, and myrrh. The major destination for Somali exports is Saudi Arabia, with 57 percent, followed by the United Arab Emirates (15 percent), Italy (12 percent), and Yemen (8 percent) in 1997.
Somalia's principal imports are food, transportation equipment, heavy machinery, manufactured consumer goods, cement and building materials, fuels, iron and steel. Djibouti was the main supplier of imported goods in 1997 with 20 percent, followed by Kenya (11 percent), Belarus (11 percent), India (10 percent), Saudi Arabia (9 percent), and Brazil (9 percent).