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Take in the tobacco auctions

Rebecca Jacobson
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If you’re in Malawi between March and September, do not miss the tobacco auctions in Lilongwe or Blantyre. Tobacco is Malawi’s primary cash crop, responsible for 70 to 80 percent of the country’s export earnings —and for employing, directly or indirectly, an equivalent percentage of the population. On the auction floors, massive rooms double the size of aircraft hangars, the proceedings move at mesmerizing speed. A 100-kilo bale sells in two to three seconds, with up to 10,000 bales sold per day. Keep your eyes on the auctioneers, the undisputed stars of the show. Each has a distinct, lilting refrain — some ululate, some croon, some shout, others nearly yodel. Call to arrange a free tour or simply stake out a spot on the viewing platform.


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