Black tobacco farmers band together to form organisation
A new organisation has been formed to help black farmers in the tobacco industry become competitive and have one voice when speaking with government.
The Black Tobacco Farmers Association was officially launched in Irene, Pretoria on Thursday with the support of the deputy minister of agriculture Sifiso Buthelezi, who was in attendance.
Founder and chairperson Ntando Sibisi said there already 150 black farmers who have joined the organisation.
These farms are in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the North West and Eastern Cape.
“The primary motive is that we need to be innovative and competitive as black farmers and we need the technology know how in the game of farming. The formation of the organisation will address that so that we can have equal competence and make sure that more black farmers buy into the business. This will help to do away with the dependence on social grants in many of our black communities,” said Sibisi.
BTFA has been launched at a time where the tobacco industry is faced with the serious problem of illegal cigarettes.
These are cigarettes sold below the tax that government has placed on each packet of cigarettes.
According to the Tobacco Institute of South Africa 30 billion cigarettes are sold in South Africa in a year.
Only 17 billion of this figure comes from the legal industry, while the rest gets into the market without tax being paid.
BTFA warned that 10 000 livelihoods in rural South Africa are on the brink of being wiped out by the trade in illegal cigarettes.
“Illegal cigarettes do not only cost the people of South Africa billions of rands in tax, they also jeopardise the existence of tobacco farming in South Africa because not one of them uses South African leaf. Government is not only failing taxpayers by not enforcing its laws, it is failing farmers too. Our only buyer is warning that legal cigarette sales are plummeting, which will have an instant and devastating effect on farming,” said Sibisi.
Sibisi added that earlier this week, Limpopo Tobacco Processors (LTP), which purchases and processes almost all of the tobacco leaf grown in South Africa, warned that it is facing closure due to illegal cigarettes. Its main buyer, British American Tobacco, warned that if the current trends continue this year could bring a tipping point affecting the entire value chain, Sibisi said.