Liberia exports more rubber and palm oil than Sierra Leone. But Sierra Leone exports more cocoa and coffee than Liberia. This trend has been so since independence, and the FAO crop statistics database confirms this for the 4 crops over 5 decades.
In 2013 (peak year), for example, Liberia exported 58,946 tons of rubber and 2,200 tons of palm oil compared to 46 tons of rubber and 330 tons of palm oil exported by Sierra Leone.
In the same year, Sierra Leone exported 9,039 tons of cocoa and 2,927 tons of coffee compared to 6,862 tons of cocoa and 201 tons of coffee exported by Liberia.
What do these numbers tell you? That Liberia is lagging behind Sierra Leone by a COMPETITIVE MARGIN in cocoa and coffee export, but Sierra Leone is lagging behind Liberia by an UNCOMPETITIVE MARGIN in rubber and palm oil export.
Interestingly, the other two Mano River Union member countries – Guinea and the Ivory Coast – have their own crop comparative advantage in grand style.
Guinea is a “West Africa Superpower” in vegetable and fruit crops while the Ivory Coast is a “Global Superpower” in Cocoa, second in the region only by Ghana.
In Guinea, vegetable and fruits are cash crops. In Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast, vegetable and fruits are subsistence crops.
For example, supermarkets in Sierra Leone and Liberia have more Guinean grown onions, lettuce and tomatoes than Sierra Leonean and Liberian grown ones.
Guinea also exports fruits and veggies to Mali and Bissau.