My EWB colleague Mark Abbott posted an excellent comment on his blog today about changes in Thai cuisine and what it could mean for people in Ghana.
I think his conclusion applies here in Malawi where something like 70% of the foreign exchange coming into the country results from one single crop — tobacco. Malawi needs to diversify their economy in a BIG way. Unfortunately to kick the tobacco habit is tough for both smokers and farmers.
Malawi was recently unsuccessful with their efforts to lobby for delays to tightening international policies on tobacco flavouring (such as chocolate, licorice and strawberry). The International Tobacco Growers Association says the treaty could shrink the economy of Malawi by 20 percent.
While I don’t know the profit per acre for tobacco in contrast to any other crops, it seems to me that Malawi like other developing nations, needs to create and sell value-added products not simply commodities and they need to pass the tobacco baton to some other countries.
This is likely a very naïve review of the agricultural realities of Malawi. Transportation of higher value crops that spoil more easily than tobacco would be a non-trivial constraint. And as Mark points out, domestic consumption of some crops would require some creative cultural introductions.
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