The development of manufacturing enterprise on a large scale has been retarded by want of capital. The principal establishments for the native manufactures of aba and shayak (rough and fine homespuns), and of gaitan (braided embroidery) are at Sliven and Gabrovo respectively. The Bulgarian homespuns, which are made of pure wool, are of admirable quality. The exportation of textiles is almost exclusively to Turkey: value in 1806, £104,046; in 1898, £144,726; in 1904, £108,685. Unfortunately the home demand for native fabrics is diminishing owing to foreign competition; the smaller textile industries are declining, and the picturesque, durable, and comfortable costume of the country is giving way to cheap ready-made clothing imported from Austria. The government has endeavoured to stimulate the home industry by ordering all persons in its employment to wear the native cloth, and the army is supplied almost exclusively by the factories at Sliven. A great number of small distilleries exist throughout the country; there are breweries in all the principal towns, tanneries at Sevlievo, Varna, etc., numerous corn-mills worked by water and steam, and sawmills, turned by the mountain torrents, in the Balkans and Rhodope. A certain amount of foreign capital has been invested in industrial enterprises; the most notable are sugar-refineries in the neighbourhood of Sofia and Philippopolis, and a cotton-spinning mill at Varna, on which an English company has expended about £60,000.
The usages of internal commerce have been considerably modified by the development of communications. The primitive system of barter in kind still exists in the rural districts, but is gradually disappearing. The great fairs (panaïri, πανηγύρεις) held at Eski-Jumaia, Dobritch and other towns, which formerly attracted multitudes of foreigners as well as natives, have lost much of their importance; a considerable amount of business, however, is still transacted at these gatherings, of which ninety-seven were held in 1898. The principal seats of the export trade are Varna, Burgas and Baltchik on the Black Sea, and Svishtov, Rustchuk, Nikopolis, Silistria, Rakhovo, and Vidin on the Danube. The chief centres of distribution for imports are Varna, Sofia, Rustchuk, Philippopolis and Burgas. About 10% of the exports passes over the Turkish frontier, but the government is making great efforts to divert the trade to Varna and Burgas, and important harbour works have been carried out at both these ports.
The new port of Burgas was formally opened in 1904, that of Varna in 1906.
In 1887 the total value of Bulgarian foreign commerce was £4,419,589. The following table gives the values for the six years ending 1904. The great fluctuations in the exports are due to the variations of the harvest, on which the prosperity of the country practically depends: -
The principal exports are cereals, live stock, homespuns, hides, cheese, eggs, attar of roses. Exports to the United Kingdom in 1900 were valued at £239,665; in 1904 at £989,127. The principal imports are textiles, metal goods, colonial goods, implements, furniture, leather, petroleum. Imports from the United Kingdom in 1900, £301,150; in 1904, £793,972.
The National Bank, a state institution with a capital of £400,000, has its central establishment at Sofia, and branches at Philippopolis, Rustchuk, Varna, Trnovo and Burgas. Besides conducting the ordinary banking operations, it issues loans on mortgage. Four other banks have been founded at Sofia by groups of foreign and native capitalists. There are several private banks in the country. The Imperial Ottoman Bank and the Industrial Bank of Kiev have branches at Philippopolis and Sofia respectively. The agricultural chests, founded by Midhat Pasha in 1863, and reorganized in 1894, have done much to rescue the peasantry from the hands of usurers. They serve as treasuries for the local administration, accept deposits at interest, and make loans to the peasants on mortgage or the security of two solvent landowners at 8%. Their capital in 1887 was £569,260; in 1904, £1,440,000. Since 1893 they have been constituted as the "Bulgarian Agricultural Bank"; the central direction is at Sofia. The post-office savings bank, established 1896, had in 1905 a capital of £1,360,560.
There are over 200 registered provident societies in the country. The legal rate of interest is 10%, but much higher rates are not uncommon.
Bulgaria, like the neighbouring states of the Peninsula, has adopted the metric system. Turkish weights and measures, however, are still largely employed in local commerce. The monetary unit is the lev, or "lion" (pl. leva), nominally equal to the franc, with its submultiple the stotinka (pl. -ki), or centime. The coinage consists of nickel and bronze coins (2&FRAC12;, 5, 10 and 20 stotinki) and silver coins (50 stotinki; 1, 2 and 5 leva). A gold coinage was struck in 1893 with pieces corresponding to those of the Latin Union. The Turkish pound and foreign gold coins are also in general circulation. The National Bank issues notes for 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 leva, payable in gold. Notes payable in silver are also issued.