October 5, 2016 / 1:51 PM / a year ago

Burundi H1 trade deficit narrows on lower import costs

KIGALI, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Burundi’s trade deficit narrowed to 484 billion francs ($291 million) in the first six months of 2016 from 658.5 billion francs in the same period a year earlier due to falling import costs and fuel prices, the central bank said on Wednesday.

Costs for imported raw material for the manufacturing sector fell 26 percent while those for petroleum products dropped 9 percent, central bank data showed.

Business activity in Burundi, which relies heavily on coffee and tea exports, was slowed by several months of political violence which escalated in April last year, when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term.

The violence killed at least 450 people and forced over 300,000 to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Authorities say domestic business had revived since the first quarter of 2016 due to a relative calm across the country, especially in the capital Bujumbura which accounts for 55 percent of output.

Imports fell 23.3 percent in value to 562.7 billion francs while exports rose 3.7 percent to 78.6 billion francs helped by high revenues from coffee. Burundi suffers from a chronic imbalance between imports and exports.

$1 = 1,662.0000 Burundi francs Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana; Editing by George Obulutsa and Raissa Kasolowsky

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