Before the civil war, Liberia's industrial sector was dominated by processing plants associated with its key agricultural outputs: rubber, palm oil, and lumber. The Liberian-owned Mesurado Group manufactured detergent, soap, industrial gas and animal foods. Liberia also produced soft drinks, cement, plastics, shoes, recycled steel, and refined petroleum products. In addition, Liberia's industrial base produced rice and sugar, cookies and candy, candles, foam rubber, hand tools and aluminum parts, umbrellas, and batteries.
Between 1990 and 1996, faction leaders and business accomplices exploited the industrial wealth of the country. Using forced labor and stolen goods and fuel, they engaged in forestry, mining, and rubber production techniques that were environmentally unsound and threatened future industrial capacity. Profits from these enterprises were used to acquire more munitions. Increased fighting in 2003 further aggravated the poor industrial climate. In 2001, industry accounted for only 10% of GDP, 5% of which was attributed to manufacturing. The 1975 "Liberianization" law protects, the production of rice, gasoline, and cement; and the operation of travel agencies, gas stations, and beer and soft drink distributors; from foreign interference, despite free trade agreements.
Liberia was a leading purveyor of transportation for the world's merchant fleet, but its position has declined rapidly. In 1995, the Liberian fleet consisted of 1,601 vessels with a gross tonnage of 59.4 million tons. This represented a decline of over 55% since 1982, due primarily to civil war, a reduction in oil tanker numbers, competition from other registry states, and opposition to the open registry system itself. The port of Monrovia was not even operational in 1999.
The oil refinery at Monrovia was closed in 1984. No viable oil or natural gas deposits have been discovered, although limited oil exploration has occurred.