Tobacco in Malawi
Tobacco is the main export for Malawi.
Much of the tobacco in Malawi is produced on large estates, but there are many small holders who produce some tobacco to sell at auction each year. Small farms tend to diversify their crops and often grow a few tobacco plants, alongside other cash and subsistence crops.
The auction houses are in Limbe, Lilongwe and Mzuzu, and the auctions often take place around March and April each year.
Tobacco is cured in a number of ways, the most common being 'Burley' where it is laid out in long sheds and dried by the dun. A more expensive way is to flue-cure the tobacco, using wood fires in tall barns, this gives it a different flavour and will sell for more. Dark-fired tobacco (NDDF) is cured in small barns over a longer period of time in the presence of heavy smoke - this is used in cigars.
After curing, tobacco is sold in bales at auction where prices of all the types of tobacco are volatile, at the mercy of world markets.
You will sometimes see men and women chewing tobacco and smoking home-made cigarettes, and it is not uncommon to see people using it as snuff!