Speech by South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance chairman Shadrack Sibisi

By January 17, 2020 January 20th, 2020 Uncategorized

Launch of the South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance
Loskop Farmers’ Day, 17 January 2020

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues

Today is a milestone for South African tobacco industry. For the first time, black tobacco farmers, tobacco producers and South Africa’s only manufacturer of legal tobacco products are coming together to launch the South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance.

Our new organisation is an important step in promoting and protecting the rights and aspirations of all those involved in the production of legal tobacco products.

I am proud to be a tobacco farmer; I am proud of the work we do, and the way we have begun to develop our own farms, work on our own land, bring in income for our own families, and take control of own our destiny.

I am also proud to part of the broader tobacco industry, and to now be a member of the South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance.

As members of this alliance, we believe that we can achieve so much more by working in unity with our colleagues involved in tobacco processing and the production of tobacco products.

The alliance is a great leap forward for us as farmers, because it strengthens the bonds that have been formed with producers and with BAT South Africa. It builds on the good work that BAT has done to empower emerging farmers, and in so doing to restore our dignity as people.

For years, we have become closer and closer partners with the other parties involved in the production of legal tobacco products. In recent months, we have come even closer, through beginning to talk about alliances and ways in which we can work together.

The second “T” in SATTA says it all: this new alliance is about Transformation, and we see tremendous opportunities for further transformation of the legal tobacco products industry. We also see our new alliance unlocking the economic potential of the tobacco value chain, while at the same time campaigning for the interests of those involved in legal tobacco production.

Under the broad umbrella of transformation, the alliance will focus on these two things: promoting the industry, and protecting it from attack.

We aim to do this by providing resources and expertise to farmers and producers in rural communities, educating farmers and producers on the best agricultural, commercial and business practices.

At the same time, we will consistently point out how illegal tobacco products undermine the industry, consumers and the national fiscus. I will explain that in more detail in a minute or so.

I must first point out, though, that the local tobacco industry has tremendous potential. Our members farm, purchase, process and manufacture all the flue cured virginia and sun cured virginia tobacco leaf grown in our country. South Africa is already Africa’s fifth biggest tobacco exporter, and has the potential to become the continent’s leader in tobacco leaf farming. The alliance will help bring us one step closer to that, by protecting and promoting farmers’ and producers’ interests.

Ladies and gentlemen: Being a tobacco farmer is not easy. It is hard work, as anybody involved in agricultural production will know. We are constantly watching issues such as the weather, climate change, land restitution and rural development, and the state of the economy, to see where we fit in and how we can make the best living out of what we do.

What we find particularly painful, and difficult, is the fact that we grow raw materials for an industry that is increasingly under threat.

It is under threat from people who are opposed to smoking; people who expect us all to pay more tax; people who want to put more and more regulations in place to police the industry. But at the same time – and on an even bigger scale – the industry in which we work is under threat from people who have no respect for the law, who have no respect for people who work according to the law, and who produce and sell millions of illegal tobacco items every week.

These people, the illegal ones running the cigarette black market, should be ashamed of themselves. They are taking bread out of our mouths; they are undermining our industry and our products and giving us a bad name. They are disrespecting us, as people and farmers, and undermining our livelihoods.

Illicit tobacco costs taxpayers R21.9 million every day, and undermines the Government’s ability to make the necessary investments in infrastructure and social development. We aim to stop that. They are hitting at the livelihood of South Africa’s hard-working, legitimate commercial and emerging tobacco farmers and producers – and they must be stopped.

Already, in our initial meetings as the leadership of the alliance, we have identified the importance of working together, as a group of interested parties, to make sure that more is done to deal with the illegal tobacco industry. At the same time, we believe the alliance is also going to help change the lives of black tobacco farmers in particular, and tobacco farmers in general, by allowing us to exchange knowledge and ideas which are in the best interests of all of us.

As farmers, we are excited about the prospect of greater cooperation between all of us involved in the tobacco product value chain. We can learn a lot from each other, and we intend to make sure that knowledge-sharing takes place on as broad a scale as possible. We are also excited about the role that the alliance will play in driving transformation in the sector. We have come a long way, but we believe that existing black tobacco farmers need to be supported even further to ensure that we grow. Black tobacco farmers need to be developed and provided with knowledge and information – whether it is from the processors or the manufacturers. We need access to knowledge and opportunities, so that we become significant players in this sector.

We have big ideas, and we intend to make them happen. This includes speeding up economic development from the level of individual farms right through to communities, and speeding up transformation of the sector. We want to be more successful as farmers, more successful as breadwinners, and more successful as drivers of economic and rural development, so that our people can grow.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the launch of the South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance. Enjoy yourselves, with us, in making history – and entering a new phase in the life of the legal tobacco products industry.

Thank you.

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