SA Lockdown: Tobacco farmers face uncertain future

Small-scale tobacco farmers say they've been left poor and hungry. Courtesy #DStv403

BUFFELSPRUIT, Mpumalanga - Small-scale tobacco farmers say they've been left poor and hungry.

That's because South Africans haven't been able to buy tobacco products since the lockdown started.

Government says it's trying to save lives.

Black Farmers Association chairperson Ntando Shadrack Sibisi is one of 63 small-scale farmers selling to Limpopo Tobacco Processors.

“When I look at the land that I’m standing on it saddens me to know that since March I knew that we were being kicked out of business,” Sibisi said.

“And to reach this point in time where the season is supposed to be starting and no sign on when the ban will be lifted, it means we are being kicked out of business by our government.”

READ: Tobacco battle in court

It’s the small players in this large industry, who are struggling the most.

The farmers are desperate to start making a living again.

“I thought that when I ventured into the tobacco business I was not only trying to help myself and my family, I was also in another way trying to assist government because I’m not working alone. I work with the community,” Sibisi said. It’s estimated the tax revenue lost due to the ban, exceeds R4-billion.

READ: Govt's alcohol, tobacco ban tweet befuddles SA

Gladys Hlebeya, a tobacco farmer, says that money could’ve been used to feed the poor, instead of the R350 special COVID-19 relief grant.

While it’s not yet clear when the ban on the sale of tobacco products will be lifted, farmers are hoping it will be sooner rather than later as their livelihoods and those of their workers, depend on it.

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