Lockdown level 3: Good news for farmers in alcohol industry

President cites 'health reasons' for continued ban on tobacco products amid the covid-19 pandemic

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The partial lifting of the ban on alcohol sales announced by Pres Cyril Ramaphosa comes as welcome relief for the South African wine and liquor industry, including the farmers who produce the raw inputs that wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks are made of.

Tobacco producers, however, did not get good news from Ramaphosa’s televised address to announce details of lockdown measures that are set to apply in the entire county from 1 June. The ban on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products remains in place.

Ramaphosa, in a televised address to the nation, announced details of alert level three lockdown measures. His announcement included measures that are sure to be popular, like a lifting of the curfew and the regulations that limited exercise to 3 hours daily. As many as 8 million South Africans are set to return to work under level three.

This is the next step in the country’s continuing stepwise loosening of the economic lockdown imposed in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus to give the health system time to prepare for the feared onslaught of the covid-19 pandemic.

Ramaphosa said alcohol sales for home consumption under controlled conditions were allowed. The controversial ban on the sale of tobacco products remains in place “for health reasons”.

This leaves the tobacco sector in limbo, with illegal sales taking over the market and the country losing out on taxes, even while the farmers and their workers face an increasingly bleak future. The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) is challenging the ban in court.

The agriculture industry, most of which has been exempted to operate since level five, remains open and operational.

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The level three regulations require employers to screen workers for possible exposure to the coronavirus daily.

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