Contraband cigarettes cost jobs
Polokwane - At least 15 000 jobs have been lost over the last 10 years due to the smuggling of contraband cigarettes, the Tobacco Industry of Southern Africa (Tisa) has said.
The illegal trade of cigarettes was crippling the industry as they were sold at lower prices than the legal product, according to Tisa chairperson Francois van der Merwe.
He said despite an increase in the number of people smoking, the industry was seeing a decrease in profits as more people opted for contraband cigarettes.
In South Africa, the tobacco industry generated more than R10bn annually, and more than R4bn was lost due to sales of the smuggled product.
Van der Merwe said the activities were affecting the economy, with tobacco farmers retrenching workers and being forced to close down.
In the last 10 years, 1 000 tons of cigarettes had been confiscated in Limpopo, Gauteng, and at Durban harbour.
According to the SA Revenue Service (Sars), 70% of cigarettes smuggled into the country came from Zimbabwe, and about 10% from Dubai.
Recently 18 million contraband cigarettes were seized from containers in Durban harbour.
Sars said about 347 alleged smugglers were arrested and 1.2 billion cigarettes confiscated between January and December last year.
Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay said figures indicated that syndicates were diverting their focus from drugs to cigarettes.
"Information obtained suggests that a number of well-known organised crime figures have been moving away from investing in traditional illegal drug smuggling, and are now getting involved in the tobacco industry."
Popular contraband brands included Dullahs, Remington Gold, Kingsgate, Shasha, Sharp, Director, and Absolute.