The Malawi sugarcane industry is the second largest single employer in Malawi, second only to Malawi government. The workers in the industry are professionals and casual workers. The casual workers are usually engaged during the harvesting season between March and December during which period the demand for labor is at the peak. This means the sugarcane industry contributes to the economy of the country through the taxes and foreign exchange, it also provides employment to thousands of workers who come from rural areas. This creates and sustainable environment for economic activities in the sugarcane growing areas.
Malawi is among the low-cost sugar producers in the world. With perfect climatic conditions and excellent access to water, and suitable fertile soils, Malawi is able to produce the best yielding cane in the world with high sucrose levels of around 14%.
Sugarcane has a diverse of products. Apart from sugar, the industry has also seen the growth of ethanol production. There are two ethanol plants in Malawi. One plant is at Dwangwa under Ethanol Company of Malawi and a sister plant in Nchalo under Presscane Limited. Because of the increasing demand for ethanol, the two ethanol companies have since entered into agreements with smallholder farmers to produce sugarcane purely for ethanol production. There are about 4000 farmers who will be engaged in sugarcane production for ethanol processing.
There are also other by products such as carbon dioxide, electricity, and fertilizers. There is one factory that is producing carbon dioxide.
For a long time sugarcane processing has been monopolized by Illovo Sugar (Malawi) Plc at its mills in Nchalo and Dwangwa. In 2016, government of Malawi commissioned another mill at Chikwawa in Salima for Salima Sugar Company. The company will be buying sugarcane for small scale and medium scale farmers who will be growing their cane around the factory. Currently there are about 350 farmers who have been allocated land around the factory for sugarcane production. Other farmers in the surrounding communities are also growing sugarcane which is being supplied to the mill.
On average, 60% of Malawi sugar is consumed locally while 40% is exported to other countries in the SADC/COMESA regions as we all as Europe and America.
The Malawi sugar industry makes a significant contribution to the national economy given its agricultural and industrial investments, foreign exchange earnings, its high employment, and its linkages with major suppliers, support industries and customers. Sugarcane is the largest tax payer to the government of Malawi.