Sudan is an overwhelmingly agricultural country. Much of the farming is of a subsistence kind. Agricultural production varies from year to year because of intermittent droughts that cause widespread famine. The government plays a major role in planning the economy. The leading export crops are cotton, sesame, peanuts, and sugar. Other agricultural products include sorghum, millet, and wheat. Sheep, cattle, goats, and camels are raised. The leading products of the country's small mining industry are iron ore, gold, copper, and chromium ore. Petroleum deposits were developed in the 1970s, but the work was discontinued in the mid-1980s as military conflict in the now independent South Sudan intensified. In the late 1990s, the government sought foreign partners to help redevelop the oil sector, and a pipeline was built from S Sudan to Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. Sudan began exporting crude oil in 1999. With the independence of South Sudan (2011) some three quarters of the country's oil production was lost, but the petroleum industry remains important.
Industry is largely confined to agricultural and natural resource processing and light manufacturing; the chief products include ginned cotton, textiles, processed food, beverages, soap, footwear, pharmaceuticals, and armaments. There is also some automobile and light-truck assembly. Petroleum and gold and silver are refined and hydroelectric power is produced. The country has a very limited transportation network. Foreign trade is largely conducted via Port Sudan. Chief among the annual imports are food, manufactured goods, refinery and transportation equipment, medicines, chemicals, textiles, and wheat; the principal exports are oil and petroleum products, gold, cotton, sesame, livestock, peanuts, gum arabic, and sugar. The leading trade partners are China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Sudan.