Malawi in southeast Africa is the world’s leading exporter of Burley tobacco. Burley is one component in the widely used American Blend cigarettes. More than 3 % of the agricultural lands are devoted to tobacco and about 45 % of export revenue comes from tobacco. Thus, Malawi is the country in the world which is the most dependent on tobacco growing.

In Malawi, tobacco is produced mostly in the integrated production system while a smaller part of the harvest is still sold at auction floors. Smallholder farmers take a contract at a tobacco leaf merchant before the season starts. The company provides them with inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. But farmers realize only small profits, if at all, because these inputs are sold to them quite expensive.

Nevertheless, contract farmers receive more money for their work in contrast to landless tenants living on large plantations. The tenants receive seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and food on credit from the plantation owners and supply them with tobacco leaf in return. Although tobacco leaf merchants don’t pay better prices to plantation owners, those are able to make profits by beating down prices vis-à-vis the tenants. Therefore, most tenants live in poverty and their children often suffer from undernourishment.


17.2 m (2015)

Human Development Index Rank

Platz 173 of 188 (2014)

Global Hunger Index


Gross national income

340 U.S. dollars per capita

FCTC status

not signed or ratified

Land devoted to Tobacco growing

123,110 hectare (2014)

Cigarette Consumption

80 cigarettes (2014)

Male Smoking

21.86% (2013)

Female Smoking

2.72% (2013)

Youth Smoking

16.7% (2011)


World Bank, GHI, HDI, FAOSTAT, Tobacco Atlas