Malawi needs to di­ver­sify its agri­cul­ture as tobacco rev­enue drops

ChinAfrica - - Africa Report -

MALAWI’S econ­omy, based on agri­cul­ture, has long re­lied on tobacco as its main­stay crop. How­ever, in the past decade, fall­ing prices have se­verely af­fected the coun­try’s big­gest for­eign rev­enue earner.

The Tobacco Con­trol Com­mis­sion (TCC) data shows that tobacco con­trib­utes about 11 per­cent of the coun­try’s GDP and 60 per­cent of its for­eign ex­change earn­ings, while em­ploy­ing al­most 80 per­cent of the coun­try’s ru­ral la­bor force. When tobacco auc­tion halls closed this Au­gust, sales showed a re­mark­able drop com­pared to past yields.

Since Malawi’s in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain in 1964, the coun­try’s lead­ers have urged peo­ple to work hard in the fields know­ing that it was the only way the econ­omy could be sus­tained. This agri­cul­tural push worked so well that dur­ing the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, the Malawi kwacha was 2:1 with the Bri­tish pound at the time.

At that time, tobacco was what econ­o­mists de­scribed as an econ­omy sta­bi­lizer. Ev­ery farmer wanted to grow it be­cause it fetched bet­ter prices than other crops.

Malawi Pres­i­dent Peter Mutharika (sec­ond right, in suit) in­spect­ing tobacco dur­ing the open­ing of this year’s mar­ket­ing sea­son

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