Trade Briefs

Tobacco in Africa: production and trade

Tobacco in Africa: production and trade

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19 Nov 2018

Author(s): Ron Sandrey

Africa’s leading agricultural export is cocoa beans from west Africa, but next in importance is tobacco and tobacco products. However, the relative importance of tobacco as a crop has been declining in Africa since 1961, and this suggests that tobacco is very much an export-oriented rather than a domestic-oriented crop.

Global production of tobacco has roughly doubled since 1961, and production is now dominated by China which has overtaken the previously dominant United States (US). The largest increases since 1961 are, however, from the African producers of Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, while Zimbabwe and Malawi have consistently been the leading African producers. Overall, Africa’s global production share has increased from 4.9% in the 1960s to 9.3% in the current decade.

A recent tralac-NAMC publication, Agriculture and the African Continental Free Trade Area, examines African agricultural production and trade, looking separately at cocoa and cocoa beans, tea and coffee, and sugar. The objective of this Trade Brief is to continue that examination by reviewing the African tobacco production and trade profile. This will include an examination of how tobacco has become a substance that is the focus of international efforts to severely constrain its global consumption as overwhelming evidence points to tobacco directly for causing significant health problems.


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