Burundi's balance of trade showed an average annual deficit of US$39.5 million between 1985-1999. In 1999 the deficit stood at US$52 million on exports of US$56 million and imports of US$108 million. To counter this deficit the government consistently resorted to borrowing in order to maintain its spending levels. This led to greater indebtedness and a rise in annual debt repayment levels. Imports and exports were partially reduced in 1996 due to an embargo imposed by regional countries and the European Union in an attempt to force a peace agreement. However, due to smuggling to and from Burundi this embargo was soon rendered ineffective. At the outset of 1999 civil conflict had lessened in intensity, yet shortages of sugar and fuel raised the population's discontent.
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Burundi|
|SOURCE : International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
The Economist Intelligence Unit estimated Burundi's principal imports in 1997 as US$70.4 million of intermediate goods , US$63.1 million of capital goods , US$55.1 million of food, and US$31.2 million in energy. The main origins of these imports were neighboring Tanzania which supplied 14.8 percent of the total, Kenya (14 percent), the United States (11.1 percent), Belgium-Luxembourg (8.3 percent), and Germany (5.1 percent). The import of refined petroleum products represented around 15 percent of Burundi's total imports, and took between 20-30 percent of all national foreign exchange earnings.
In 1997, Burundi's most important exports were coffee, which sold US$45.2 million, tea (US$20.7 million), hides (US$4.6 million), and cassiterite (US$3.7 million). Burundi's main export partners for these goods were based in the European Union. Belgium and Luxembourg consumed 36.1 percent of all Burundi's exports, while Germany consumed 20.6 percent. Other destinations for Burundi's exports were the Netherlands, which imported 4.1 percent, the United Kingdom (2 percent), and the United States (1 percent).