Foreign Trade

Burundian Exports

The country exports mostly coffee, tea and manufactures. These three products alone account for 97% of Burundian exports.

Burundi’ export performance depends heavily on the price and production of coffee, its major Export (72.1%, 2005, Economist Intelligence Unit). Its other exports include tea, sugar, cotton (historically, but there were no formal exports of cotton during the 1997–2004 period; cotton exports resumed in 2005) and hides.

Total exports averaged about $50 million a year during 2000–2004, with coffee accounting for a little less than half the total. Tea accounted for about 5 percent; nonmonetary gold, always showing wide swings from year to year, accounted for about one–fifth of the total. Burundi has over the years sought to promote exports of non-traditional items such as cut flowers and exotic plants, vegetables and tropical fruit, and more recently essential oils.


Main exports 2005% of totalMain imports 2005% of total
Coffee72.1Capital goods18.6
Tea15.7Intermediate goods50.9
Manufactures9.3Consumption goods29.8
Source: Economist Intelligence Unit: May 2011
A good share of Burundi’s exports goes to the European Union (EU); the EU was the destination of about 58% of Burundi’s exports during 2000–2004. Within Europe, the biggest markets are represented by Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland.
A noticeable shift is the larger share of exports to African countries: their share has risen to over 15% in 2000–2004, up from only 2% in 1960–1980, 10% in 1982–1992 and 11% in 1993–1999. The increase in African countries’ share reflects the impact of regional integration efforts; It is worth mentioning that African countries may not be the final destination of such exports as coffee and tea.

Burundian Imports

Imports play a major role in the Burundi economy. The terms of trade for the country register large trade deficits as the countries imports more than it exports. Imports comprise a wide variety of goods, mainly composed of manufactured goods, equipment, food, petroleum products and fuel. Manufactures make up about two–thirds of Burundi merchandise imports; fuels account for about 15%. This reflects the need to invest in domestic manufacturing and the scarcity of fuel resources in the country.

EU countries, in particular Belgium, China and India are the major sources of Burundi’s imports. Of particular attention is the increasing share of imports from African countries, from 12% during 1969–1980 to 34% during 2000–2004. Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia have been the leading suppliers. This development reflects Burundi’s efforts in regional integration, most notably its membership in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), comprising Kenya and Zambia, and the East African Community (whose membership includes Tanzania).