The Continental Tobacco Group has completed a ten-day tobacco procurement trip to Africa’s major tobacco producing countries: company experts visited Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe to assess the tobacco growing situation and secure future supplies. Malawi and Tanzania have managed to tie up the necessary quantities of tobacco, while in Zimbabwe this has been partially frustrated by the lower than usual quality.

In the current global market environment, where demand far outstrips supply, African tobacco producing countries have great potential: Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe are all major exporters, and in the last two years, tobacco purchase prices in these three countries have risen significantly, reflecting increased motivation among producers. The biggest long-term issue is sustainability, with the supply of renewable crop fuel to the mainly wood-fired Virginia tobacco dryers being a key issue in this area.

Weather factors can have a significant impact on crop yields in a given year, with Zimbabwe experiencing its worst drought in decades in this 2023-2024 period, resulting in a dramatic increase in prices and a decrease in supply. The country is currently in the middle of the processing and buying season and has already started planting for the new production cycle, which starts in September. Continental has stocks from here, so only the most necessary quantities needed to be purchased this time.

Malawi is one of the world’s impoverished countries, but also one of the largest exporters of Burley tobacco, and the 2024 crop is proving to be of particularly good quality. With huge demand, growers and processors are able to sell at higher prices than last year, with Continental also having signed up significant quantities.

Of the three countries, Tanzania may offer the most interesting opportunities for buyers this year. Tobacco prices are fixed by the organisations that oversee tobacco production, so despite high demand, prices have not risen as much as in other African countries. Local growers have produced a significant quantity of Virginia, which is also excellent value for money, and Continental has been able to secure the necessary quantities on favourable terms.

Overall, in addition to the three countries mentioned, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa are also major tobacco producing countries, making Africa a major player in the world tobacco trade today. Continental is also monitoring these trends in order to maximise its procurement and international relations.