Malawi is one of the least developed nations in the African continent. The country’s GDP heavily depends on agricultural yield, particularly tobacco production. The industrial sector has almost negligible share in Malawi’s trade. Due to low agricultural productivity since 2000, Malawi suffers from negative balance of trade.
Malawi Trade: Exports
Malawi’s exports for the year 2009 stood at US$945 million, according to the CIA World Factbook. This is approximately US$115 million higher than the 2008 figure. In terms of total export volumes, the country ranks 152 in the world.
Tobacco is the major item of export for Malawi. It accounts for more than 50% of the total export volume and earns maximum foreign currency for the nation. Other items of export are tea, cotton, sugar, coffee, peanuts, apparels and wooden products.
South Africa is Malawi’s biggest export partner. The country exports more than 14% of the total export volume to South Africa. Egypt, Zimbabwe, the US, the Netherlands, Germany and Russia are also included in Malawi’s export list.
Malawi Trade: Imports
Malawi’s imports for the year 2009 came in at US$1.625 billion. The country ranks 158 in the world, in terms of total import volumes. The country lacks a sound industrial sector. Thus, all major industrial products are imported, right from small consumer goods to heavy machineries. The major items of import are petroleum products, transport equipments and semi-manufactured goods. Due to a lack of agricultural productivity in the years after 2000, the country has had to import food products as well.
South Africa is the single largest import partner for Malawi. It accounts for more than 40% of the total import volumes. The country imports consumer goods and food products from South Africa. Other important import partners are India, China, Tanzania and the US. The import of goods from Commonwealth nations is free of duties, according to a general license agreement governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In 2006, Malawi began an over-ambitious project to boost agricultural production. The program aims to develop the agricultural sector and subsequently increase export volumes. Under this program, the government is promoting investments in agriculture and allied activities, and offering subsidies on the purchase of fertilizers and high-quality seeds. However, the program had not offered any measurable results by 2009.