First release: April 14, 2021
Diversification away from tobacco production has been framed as a priority for Malawi. This paper characterizes broad trends in production to understand whether Malawi is shifting away from tobacco and how production has changed over time. From 2004 to 2019, the share of Malawian crop farmers producing tobacco fell from 16% to 5%, and tobacco’s share of the total value of crop production declined sharply. Tobacco farms are generally growing larger over time. However, land productivity remains low, with net returns of 93,000 MWK (128 USD) per hectare at the median. Farm-gate prices for tobacco have declined relative to the prices of maize or fertilizer, rendering tobacco less lucrative than it had been. In addition, the share of the export price received by farmers has declined over time, with the median farm-gate price representing 32% of the export price in 2004 and 18% in 2019.
A sector transforming? Malawi's tobacco farms are fewer and larger than in the past, while the share of export price received by farmers has declined.