There may be a delay in retailers being restocked with tobacco products, following confusion and the late publication of the gazetted regulations for Level 2 of the lockdown which allowed for the sale of tobacco
While President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Saturday evening that the country would be moving to Level 2 of the lockdown as of Tuesday, and the sale of tobacco products would be allowed for the first time since 27 March, tobacco manufacturers appear to have only started delivering stock to retailers on Monday afternoon.
The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni told News24 that there was uncertainty on Monday morning with regards to what industry role players could and couldn’t do.
Law enforcement agencies were also allegedly unable to provide further guidance insofar as the parameters of the Level 2 regulations.
The regulations were only gazetted on Monday afternoon and distributed, shortly before Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma held a briefing on the said regulations.
It’s understood that, as a result of the confusion and the timing of the gazetted regulations, tobacco manufacturers were allegedly not transporting stock to the outlets since the president’s announcement.
However, the movement of tobacco stock started following Dlamini-Zuma’s media briefing.
“Some cigarette manufacturers are now distributing their cigarettes along the value chain to retailers due to the late publication of the regulations by government,” Mnguni said.
“Most retailers should be restocked by tomorrow, however, delays can be expected due to the lateness of the publication of the regulations and the uncertainty occasioned by this.”
“We are therefore hoping that it’s a case of things returning back to normal within the next day or so.”
While Mgnuni said most retailers should be restocked by Tuesday, it was possible that retailers who did not sell out before the lockdown started, and those who did not sell the rest of their stock during the lockdown, might still have stock left over.
News24 spoke to one retailer who said it had been a mission to try and get stock as demand was so high and there were issues surrounding transportation.
The retailer, who did not want to be named, said they were hoping to get stock by Wednesday.
Meanwhile, it was expected that retailers would have their hands full on Tuesday morning as smokers attempted to get their favourite brands at normal prices.
During the lockdown, cigarettes were readily available on the black market, albeit at inflated prices.
British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) went to court in May against the government’s decision to extend the ban on tobacco sales.
A ruling was still expected from the Western Cape High Court on the matter.
“We have noted the South African government’s decision to move from lockdown Level 2. However legal clarity is needed,” it said in a statement.
“For the time being, we can resume our business in South Africa, supporting thousands of jobs in our value chain, whilst combating the grip of illegal cigarettes in the marketplace.”