Tobacco production in Malawi dates back to over 110 years ago and TAMA as an organization for the tobacco farmers was founded in 1929. The founding objectives of the Association were generally to promote and develop the tobacco industry in Malawi with particular emphasis on protecting and advancing the interests of the tobacco growers through advocacy, information dissemination, tobacco markets promotion, etc. The Tobacco Association of Malawi got registered as a TRUST in 1983 and its constitution gives no unlimited mandate in as far as promoting the TAMA objectives are concerned that include the promotion and the improvement of the economic and general welfare of the grower members.

Prior to 1994, before liberalization of tobacco production in Malawi, all tobaccos were produced by Estate owners except for Dark fired tobacco which was being produced by the smallholders. With the onset of tobacco production liberalization in 1994, smallholders were allowed to venture into Burley and Flue Cured tobacco. Up to until 2004, membership to TAMA was mandatory but with the tobacco industry sector changes that were introduced in 2004, membership to TAMA became voluntary, and this challenged the survival of TAMA for its relevance and future.

In a bid to reposition itself, TAMA embarked on a 6 year strategic plan from mid 2004 and the following have been the driving objectives and milestones:

To continue organizing its members to continue patronizing tobacco production as key economic spinner and participant in the general welfare and economic well being of the farmer members

Exploring and implementing ways for value added farmer demand driven services in Research, Agronomy, Operational and market related activities

Championing agro diversification and acting as catalyst for food security at farmer homesteads and operational farmsteads.

Economically empowering the farmer members by championing, providing and linking members to manufacturing and processing facilities to aid in a new market orientation where members would produce to ‘value add’ and export on that basis.

Providing and linking the farmer members with and to technologically advanced services and financial services respectively in order to add value to life and life processes

On the backdrop of pursuing these objectives, TAMA’s membership has steadied
and continues to grow such that the membership accounts for 85% of the total
tobacco production in Malawi.


Malawi continues to produce ‘uniquely styled tobaccos’ that have an international reputation. It is estimated that 25% of the Flue cured tobacco in Malawi is grown by smallholders while the Estate sector produces the balance. On the other hand, it is estimated that around 98% of the Burley tobacco is produced by the smallholder sector while the Estate sector takes up the balance. Prior to 2007, prices for tobacco were being left to be determined by the market forces on the designated market (demand and supply), hence the auctioning. Commencing 2007, due to Government intervention, prices are primarily discovered through a ‘cost of production process’ and secondarily by the forces of demand and supply with the minimum prices as a ‘safety valve’.


Up to until 2003, the principal marketing channel for tobaccos in Malawi has been the auction floors where Buyers of the commodity declare interest of the crop by bidding. Changes in the marketing system were introduced in 2003 whereby contract growing and marketing were introduced namely for Flue Cured tobacco. Succusses in flue cured contract marketing provided one of the reasons for instituting a three -year pilot programme for burley contract marketing. In the initial year, 2005/2006 season, the allocated contract volume was only 5 million metric tonnes. Over the years, the projected volumes have been increasing as depicted in the table below:

Notable on the table above is the fact that the actual volume of burley sold on contract in 2008 surpassed the allocated volume of 40,000 metric tonnes by 3,000 metric tonnes.The decision to sell either on auction or contract rests with the farmer after considering the merits and demerits of each system.
Therefore, it follows that until 2007, the traditional marketing channel for tobacco in Malawi was through auction system. Contract marketing system, where a buyer and grower pre-agree on prices giving room for further negotiation was introduced in 2006 on a three year pilot study. Since the inception of the system the Ministry has each year been giving an ok for the Contract system to operate.The Stakeholders are of the picture that the system should continue along side tha Auction system


Unarguably, tobacco is the main cash crop of Malawi and with the introduction of the minimum prices by Government, many smallholders will strive to grow as much as they can as it is the crop that gives them quickest and easier access to cash and it is the notable crop that has got established market infrastructures. Some literature indicates that tobacco contributes between 60-70% of Malawi’s forex. The Ministry of Economic Planning and Development estimates that tobacco’s contribution to GDP is 38%.


There has been unprecedented growth for the industry especially in terms of production in the year 2008. The trend is expected to be same for the year 2009. This is on account of the prevailing prices for tobacco that seem to stimulate the growers. Notably, the average prices for Burley per kilogram have been as follows; US$0.94 in 2006, US$1.74 in 2007 and US$2.36 in 2008. The trend of growth in volumes for the past 10 years is shown below:

Having embarked upon the 6 year Strategic Corporate restructuring process in 2004, TAMA has so far achieved the following milestones;

Opening Chinkhoma tobacco rural market to meet the aspirations of the farmer members regarding rural marketing

Establishment of affiliated Cooperatives (40) and more being established for the purposes of providing the well organized grass root structures with economic empowerment programs as well as providing direct linkage access to service providers like financial institutions for loan facilities

Creation and establishment of TAMA tobacco re-handling centres in Limbe, Chinkhoma, Mzuzu, Lilongwe to facilitate such service delivery to the farmers

Offering most competitive transportation rates to the farmers base as a block

Creation of a partnership vehicle in Premium TAMA Tobacco Limited (PTTL) for synergy in providing extra buying competition and force and also providing opportunity to the farmer members to actively participate in tobacco processing as an ‘economic empowerment vehicle’

Partnership and provision of advanced technology in electronic money services namely ‘Makwacha card’ to facilitate easier and rural access of funds through First Merchant Bank, Farmers World Ltd and Agora Ltd.


A strategic focus in the PTTL where TAMA has now been given opportunity to participate in the equity stakeholding in its subsidiary Kanengo Tobacco Processors Ltd (KTPL)

Income diversification for TAMA as dividends from the factory will be passed on to members

Income diversification for TAMA as funds collected will be invested in a unit fund for further investments eg, participation in wider economic activities including need to establish LAND BANK for farmers

KTPLwill provide avenue for TAMA members to value add through their processing window and export to markets of choice


Governed by Tobacco Act 65; 02, 65; 03 but changes were submitted to Ministry Justice for enaction of a new bill.

All the tobacco is sold on designated markets

The Tobacco Control Commission is the enforcing agent for Government

The Minister of Agriculture has some superior powers on some matters