Burundi's is an agricultural and livestock economy with over 90% of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture. Bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, and manioc are Burundi's staple crops, followed by beans, taro, and maize. Coffee and tea are the main export crops. Coffee provides roughly 50% of export earnings, which are thus vulnerable to international coffee prices and seasonal yields. Cotton is Burundi's other principal export, but cotton production has been plagued by excessive rain. Livestock sales are discouraged by a tradition that encourages the maintenance of large herds. Sales of hides and skins amount to some 3% of exports.
Burundi's mineral sector is currently small, with a potential that remains undetermined. Gold, tungsten, columbo-tantalite, bastnaesite, and cassiterite are each mined in small quantities. Explorations have revealed petroleum under Lake Tanganyika and in the Ruzizi Valley, as well as large nickel deposits at Musongati. Copper, cobalt, and platinum are expected to be found in association with the nickel. Phosphate rock deposits have also been located.
Since 1993, ethnic tensions and ongoing violence have severely disrupted the economy, bringing the government's economic reforms to a halt. International sanctions in 1996 exacerbated the poor economic situation, causing further food shortages, and high inflation. There was a 50% increase in the number of people falling below the poverty line. Although the Arusha Peace Accords had been signed in 2000, violence continued into 2003, as one million people fled their homes. Over 300,000 people since 1993 had been killed in Burundi's civil war. Sanctions imposed by neighboring countries on Burundi have stunted the economy, although a regional trade embargo was lifted in 1999. Nearly one in ten adults are infected with HIV/AIDS, and medicines are in short supply.