Malawi tobacco crop threatened by flooding - industry official

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 23, 2015 7:06 AM

BLANTYRE (Reuters) - Lethal floods in Malawi which have killed at least 176 people have caused extensive damage to tobacco, the country's leading hard currency earner, a senior official said on Friday.

According to the World Bank, tobacco accounts for around 60 percent of Malawi's exports, and the floods come as the impoverished southern African country struggles to woo back donors who have withheld funds over governance concerns.

"We are still assessing how much damage has been caused by the heavy rains on tobacco but I can safely say that many fields have been washed away and the impact on the economy is obvious because tobacco is our main forex earner," Bruce Munthali, the Tobacco Control Commission's chief executive, told Reuters.

There are also worries about the staple maize crop which feeds the nation. Last year, Malawi's farmers harvested 3.9 million tonnes of maize, providing a surplus of almost one million tonnes.

President Peter Mutharika was scheduled to make a televised address at 1800 local time (1600 GMT) about the situation.

(Editing by Ed Stoddard and James Macharia)