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Tobacco Takes a Knock Due to Southern Africa’s Lockdowns

Restrictions on movement, border closures and a complete ban on cigarette sales in South Africa during lockdown are posing problems for tobacco farmers and traders in Southern Africa. The sight of gloves, hand sanitisers and masks amid piles of tobacco leaves has become the new normal on the auction floors of Malawi and Zimbabwe, where a delayed selling season is underway following ongoing disruption caused by Covid-19. In Malawi, tobacco accounts for 11% of the country’s GDP and more than 60% of its export earnings. A month of auctions between April and May raked in over $10m in sales of burley and flue-cured tobacco. Exports to Europe have stalled due to limited flights; ZimTrade, a local import-export association, is exploring alternative markets in the region to cover the vast shortfall.