From 1991 Zambia became a net importer of goods, importing US$83 million more than it exported in 1998. The national balance of payments generally remained in deficit throughout the 1990s. In order to address this imbalance the government relied on external aid to prop up the economy; this in turn has led to a deeper indebtedness and a rise of annual debt repayment levels. In 1993, Zambia's main imports were US$144 million of crude oil (it is refined domestically into petroleum oils), and US$30 million in fertilizer. The main sources of Zambia's imports in 1996 were South Africa (US$303 million), Saudi Arabia (US$107 million), the UK (US$81 million), neighboring Zimbabwe (US$67 million), and Japan (US$19 million).
Historically, Zambia's main exports are copper and cobalt, which in total provided US$761 million in export earnings in 1996. However, there has been a huge expansion of non-traditional exports (NTEs) such as sugar, cotton, copper rods, textiles, cut flowers, gemstones, and cement since independence in 1964. In 1999, the European Union was the largest market for Zambia's NTEs, which
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Zambia|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
consumed US$117.4 million (38.54 percent) of total NTE earnings. Within the EU the largest market was the Netherlands which accounted for US$40.6 million of such goods as cut flowers and live fish. The UK was the second largest EU market and imported US$37.4 million of specialty vegetables, cotton yarn, and coffee. Germany consumed US$21.3 million in cotton yarn and cut flowers.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) was Zambia's second largest regional market for NTEs in 1999 and imported US$81.8 million. Some of the principal NTEs sold in this region were sugar, petroleum oils, cement, food, and electricity. The main 3 markets and their percentage of COMESA's imports were the Democratic Republic of the Congo (41.93 percent), Malawi (18.66 percent), and Zimbabwe (12.86 percent). However, due to war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and social unrest in Zimbabwe, 1999 exports to these countries fell. The key market for Zambia's copper rods, gemstones, and tobacco was East Asia, accounting for US$10.3 million.