Although 57.4% of its territory is arable land, Sierra Leone has currently less than 20% under cultivation.
Sierra Leone is at the bottom of the list of food-producing countries. This unenviable position makes the country – and therefore its population – highly dependent on imports of basic commodities.
The civil war, which started, in 1991, caused widespread damage to local infrastructure and a brain drain. Sierra Leone is now one of the poorest countries in the world. Fortunately, since the end of the war in 2002, the country is back on the road to genuine economic growth.
Palm oil is a traditional crop in Sierra Leone. Average monthly consumption of crude palm oil is one kilo per person!
For the local market, it is mainly produced by smallholders using traditional methods. The smallholdings severely lack the technical skills and are unable to meet local demand. The figures speak for themselves: no less than 50% of oil consumed on the local market was imported up to 2019. In 2019 a refinery was commissioned in Sierra Leone refining over 100 tons of CPO per day producing cooking oil, soap and margarine for the local market. All CPO is supplied by Socfin. It is believed importation of edible oils has dropped drastically since its commissioning.
Moreover, the oil deficit will most likely get worse, particularly because of the following factors:
- job creation through investments;
- the country’s population growth
In 2011, eager to modernize agriculture and meet local vegetable oil demand, the government turned to various agro-industrial companies. Nonetheless, the lack of skilled workers and poor road infrastructure impeded the achievement of the set objectives. Moreover, only very few agro-industrial companies operate nationally.
To address this situation, an investment policy was recently implemented to attract foreign investors to Sierra Leone.