Distributional Impacts of Tobacco Cultivations in Malawi

First release: March 9, 2022

Malawi is arguably the world's most tobacco dependent economy.  Sales of the crop account for 50% of the nation's total export value. However, recent research indicates that the percentage of smallholders growing tobacco declined from 16% of the population in 2009/10 to 5% in 2018/18.  This decline followed the global trend in tobacco prices which peaked in 2009/10 but retreated to their longer run average by 2018/19.  In this Brief, the authors investigate the distributional impacts of smallholder tobacco cultivation in Malawi - who has grown, who is still growing, and their relative wealth. The declining share of farmers still producing tend to be relatively well-off and more productive. This has implications for the nation's diversification strategies.



A farmer appreciating the quality of the tobacco leaves

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Mrunal Shah


Jacob Ricker-Gilbert


Makaiko Khonje