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Procedures and Restrictions affecting Agricultural Trade

  1. In addition to these tariffs and taxes, imports and exports are subject to a number of port, stevedoring, demurrage and other fees associated with shipping which add to the cost of doing business for firms. In contrast, Sierra Leone’s nearest neighbours, Guinea and Liberia operate free ports,23 effectively making Sierra Leone products uncompetitive. Add to this the costs of transportation, the absence of logistical infrastructure (storage and warehousing facilities), and the present landscape for commercial agriculture appears challenging.

  1. Most export taxes were eliminated in 1993. However, exports of cocoa and coffee products remain subject to a levy, currently set at 2.5% of the f.o.b. export value, payable to the Government via the Ad Hoc Committee on Produce. The Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture issues a mandatory certificate of origin and certifies other export documents against payment of a Le50,000 (US$16.5) fee for exports to ECOWAS countries and to the EC.24

  1. Export restrictions and licensing: Export restrictions are maintained for a variety of reasons including health, safety, and environmental protection. A special permit issued by the Ministry of Agriculture is required for the export of plants and charcoal.25 A phytosanitary/fumigation certificate must be issued by the MAFFS certifying that shipments of perishable goods meet the relevant international health requirements, or have been fumigated with the prescribed chemicals under international requirements. The Ministry charges a fee for fumigating the goods, as well as for issuing the certificate.

  1. For some time, the GoSL has maintained a ban on the export of palm oil; recently it has extended this to include the export of rice. The rationale for this appears to be short term scarcity of these commodities in the domestic market. However, bans are an imperfect instrument for rectifying structural market failures, and should always be temporary where they are unavoidable. Moreover, in this case, it pits the interests of small rural farmers against those of urban consumers; this undermines one of the central tenets of the move towards agricultural productivity. In effect, producers are penalised for increased production.

  1. Import restrictions: A special permit, issued by the Ministry of Agriculture is required for the import of plants, seeds, soil other than sterilized peat and special rooting compost, and any material mixed with any soil.26

  1. Generally, export procedures are rather cumbersome and need to be streamlined and simplified. Table 1 presents the export procedures for all sectors in Sierra Leone.

Table 1: Export procedures in Sierra Leone


The exporter submits sales contract/pro-forma invoice as proof of an export order to Customs Department.


The exporters fill out Exports Forms C1 and C2. These forms are prepared in seven sets. A repatriation of export proceeds form, addressed to the exporter's local bank, is also filled out. The forms are given to the exporter.


The exporter submits both forms C1 and C2 to his local bank. The local bank completes the repatriation form, signs and stamps it, confirming that export proceeds will be collected by the bank.


The exporters of agricultural products (cocoa, coffee, piassava, kola nuts, ginger, and cashews) go to the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank to pay 2.5% of the export value into the "marketing fund account" of the Ad Hoc Committee on Produce, as required. This amount is payable in U.S. dollars or in the currency of the pro-forma invoice/sales contract if not denominated in U.S. dollars.


The exporter armed with all the documents and receipts from steps 1 to 4 proceeds to the Chamber of Commerce and applies for a mandatory Certificate of Origin which is issued for a fee of Le 50,000 (US$16.50), only for agricultural products.


The exporter returns to the Custom Department and submits all forms and receipts from steps 1 to 5.


The Customs Department issues a EUR I Forma to the exporter. Permission is then granted to the exporter to export his products.


The following institutions/departments are required to witness the stuffing/loading of the goods into the container(s): (i) customs department; (ii) shipping agency; (iii) produce ad hoc committee; (iv) produce inspection division; (v) bureau of standards, and. (vi) insurance company (only for c.i.f. contracts).


The goods are transferred to the port of loading and loaded on board a ship.


The exporter collects bill of ladingb from ship's master.


The exporter presents all shipping documents to local bank or posts them to the buyer, depending on the terms of trade.

a Form required for exports to the European Communities and ACP Countries.

b Bills of lading are usually issued in sets of three originals and three non-negotiable copies. When goods are carried by air, an air-consignment note will be issued. Both documents are issued free of charge.

Source: SLEDIC (undated), The Beginners' Guide to Exporting.

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