Malawi's tobacco industry has been in turmoil after wildly fluctuating prices led protesting farmers to force the closure of the auction floors. This year's tobacco sales started on a very high note with prices reaching the phenomenal price of $11 per kilogramme. The high prices did not last, however.
While the European Union has wanted a conclusion to its economic partnership agreements (EPAs) as soon as possible, the Malawian government has been staving off a deal. The deadline for EPAs at the end of last year passed without Malawi signing -- in contrast to other African states.
Low prices continue to haunt Malawian tea on the auction floors, a bitter irony for some producers as the country is regarded as the pioneer of tea-growing in Africa. Commercial production started way back in the 1880s during the British colonial era. Large tea estates have since then been a feature of the southern region of the country.
Malawi finally has to face up to the dilemma of choosing between being a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) or to stick with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) if it is to continue receiving funding from the European Union.
Malawian civil society has welcomed tax reforms and subsidies for agricultural inputs in the 2005/06 budget that will ease the burden of small-scale farmers plagued by poor harvests again this year. Unveiling the budget on Friday, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe described the reforms as an attempt to "improve the economic buying power of individual Malawians".
A five-year community participation project in Malawi has improved the quality of education in more than 2 000 of the country's schools. The project aims to alleviate problems linked to a the glaring shortage of facilities, poor management and an inadequate number of teachers.