Burundi - Agriculture

Burundi's agricultural sector benefits from a mild climate due to high elevation of the land and regular rainfall. However, deforestation and poor farming methods have caused extensive soil erosion and depletion. It is estimated that there will be no more arable land left in Burundi by 2020, at current depletion rates. The agricultural sector provided 46 percent of GDP in 1998, and 93 percent of the labor force was employed in agricultural production. In the 10-year period from 1988-1997 Burundi produced an annual average of US$80 million of agricultural exports. The most important of these exports were cash crops such as coffee, tea, tobacco, and cotton.

The export of coffee accounts for around 80 percent of all export earnings. In 1992, 40,000 metric tons of Burundian coffee was sold abroad. However, due to the civil war and economic embargo, coffee exports dropped between 1993 and 1996 with an annual average export of only 18,500 tons. By 1997 the coffee sector recovered with 32,000 tons exported. Tea accounts for around 10 percent of all export earnings. Exports actually grew slightly during the civil war and economic embargo. Between 1988-1992 an annual average of 4,600 tons of dry green tea leaves were exported, yet between 1993-1997 an annual average of 5,400 tons was recorded. In 1999 the parastatal Office du Thé du Burundi raised the price of tea by 15 percent in order to encourage farmers to raise production for 2000. However, there was a price slump of both coffee and tea on international markets in 2000 and early 2001.

Burundi's major food crops consist of bananas, cassava, sorghum, rice, maize, and millet. Production of these crops was steady between 1989 and 1997 except for rice, which grew by more than 50 percent from 40,000 tons to 64,000 tons, and cassava, which grew from 569,000 tons to 610,000 tons. However, over the same 9-year period Burundi imported an average of US$16.4 million of food per year.

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