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LILONGWE (Reuters) - Malawi is expected to produce 218,000 tonnes of tobacco in 2011, down from an initial estimate of 232,000 tonnes and below last year's output, because of dry weather in main growing areas, a senior official said on Monday.
Tobacco, Malawi's main foreign currency earner, accounts for more than 70 percent of the southern African country's exports and 15 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
Bruce Munthali, chief executive officer for the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), said the southern African nation will this year produce less than last year's 220,000 tonnes because of sporadic dry spells in tobacco growing areas.
"Prolonged dry spells in the central region ... inadequate curing by most growers and poor application of fertilizers, are the main reasons for the low output this year," Munthali said.
About 2 million of Malawi's 13 million people depend on tobacco and related industries for their livelihood.
President Bingu wa Mutharika opened the marketing season for the crop on Monday and appealed to the country's western buyers to offer better prices to growers this season.