Malawi's tobacco industry boomed when sanctions imposed against Rhodesia, following its unilateral declaration of independence, closed many world markets to the Rhodesian crop.
Malawi's tobacco industry boomed when sanctions imposed against Rhodesia, following its unilateral declaration of independence, closed many world markets to the Rhodesian crop. At first, Malawi economists realised that a settlement of the Rhodesian situation would reverse the boom. But now the think the country's tobacco industry has benefitted to such an extent that it could still hold its own in an open market against Rhodesia.
Tobacco exports are now a major factor in the Malawi economy, as the country lacks the mineral resources of such neighbours as Zambia and relies heavily on its agricultural production.
Tobacco production in Malawi has almost doubled in the last few years and the market price has also risen. This year's crop is estimated at about 70 million pounds in weight, worth about GBP10 million sterling. At the tobacco auctions - where the constant shouts of the auctioneers firing off strange terms at a machine-gun rate sound like a foreign language to anyone outside the trade - business is brisk and it takes little more than two hours to sell three thousand bales - mostly to British buyers.
SYNOPSIS: Rhodesia helped the economy of Malawi when it declared UDI in 1965. Malawi's tobacco industry has thrived over since.
Many of the buyers who used to spend their money in the auction rooms of Salisbury are now busy buying up bales of tobacco in Malawi. At first economics warned that the tobacco boom could easily be reversed if the sanctions which barred trade with Rhodesia were lifted following a settlement. But as the years have passe settlement has come little nearer, while the tobacco industry in Malawi has continued to thrive. And now it looks as though it is strong enough to stand on its own feet even if Rhodesia were back in the market. For apart from having established strong trade links, the growers of Malawi are producing a different, darker tobacco then the traditional Rhodesian crop, one which should continue selling even against Rhodesian competition.
To the spectator the auction is rather bewildering. Its' only taken two and a half hours to sell off three thousand bales. Most of them will be sent to Britain - and Malawi's economy will benefit by about ten million pounds when the auction season ends.