Opportunities to Enhance the Competitiveness of Malawi’s Tea Industry - Policy Brief


October 25, 2018 - Justin du Toit, Flora J. Nankhuni and Joseph S. Kanyamuka

Justin du Toit, Flora J. Nankhuni and Joseph S. Kanyamuka, 2018. Opportunities to Enhance the Competitiveness of Malawi’s Tea Industry: Evidence from an Analysis of the Tea Value Chain, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Brief 72. East Lansing: Michigan State University


  • The study found that the market for black tea is oversupplied at a global level, putting downward pressure on real tea prices in Malawi;
  • There is no clear way for the tea industry in Malawi to improve its competitiveness. Development of the smallholder grower sector is limited by scarcity of land in the production hub (Thyolo and Mulanje). Increasing productivity of the smallholder sector is one way of expanding the tea industry. Large estates are mainly constrained by large tracts of their estates having old tea plantations that are low yielding. Uprooting of these plantations for new higher yielding plants is limited by competition from Macadamia as a more profitable substitute and heavy investment requirements.
  • Smallholder growers in Malawi make a significantly lower margin than estates;
  • To enable expansion and improvement in competitiveness, public investment should focus on unlocking ‘bottlenecks’ caused by issues around seedling supply, costs of and access to finance, a lack of extension services, and land tenure security for both smallholders and large estates;
  • Opportunities for the integration of smallholders into the tea industry value chain through ownership and participation in tea processing should be identified and viable options should be pursued;
  • To encourage increased private investment, an assessment of production suitability at country-level for all tea varieties is required to identify new areas for expansion and investment.



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