Jobs under threat in Nkomazi tobacco sector


Tumelo waga Dibakwane

As many as 10 000 jobs will be lost if emergency measures are not implemented to stop the illegal trade of tobacco products. Tobacco farmers and main Tumelo waga Dibakwane industry players convened in Nkomazi last week to discuss a solution.

According to the speakers at the event, the illicit trade of tobacco is destroying the legal tobacco value chain and severely a ects emerging and commercial farmers. Tobacco production volumes have been slumping since 2012 with a total output of 13.5 million tonnes
as compared to 2016 when only 11.3 million tonnes were produced – a drop of more than 2 million tonnes.

Christo van Staden, managing director at a company specialising in tobacco production shared the same sentiment as other speakers concerning the crisis that the industry is facing. He said illegal traders were selling cheap cigarettes and also procures leaf (raw material) outside the country. “Proposed extreme regulation amendments of plain packaging and retail display restrictions for all tobacco products will also put further strain on the local tobacco farming sector. Losing market percentage will destroy most of the upcoming farmers as they will be forced to close down and that means jobs will be lost,” said van Staden.

A tour was undertaken to a number of tobacco farmers around Nkomazi.
Limpopo Tobacco Processors visited farmers at Buffelspruit in Nkomazi and said the area contributes 80% of Sun-cured Virginia and 40 % Fluc-cured Virginia types.

According to expects the illicit trade also effects black economic empowerment and
other related economic programmes in the area as local farmers comprise previously
disadvantage people and women.
A tobacco farmer in the area Shadrack Sibisi has appealed to the government and
other authorities to act on illicit trade. “ The government must assist us to fight against
this illegal trading as it is destroying our business.

“At  First, I thought that tobacco farming was for white people, but after I was trained
how it worked I started with one hector but now I own 10 hectors and employ almost 20 people,” said Sibisi.