The government's failure to clamp down on the illicit cigarette trade is costing it between R8bn and R10bn a year and destroying SA's tobacco manufacturing industry, says Christo van Staden, MD of Limpopo Tobacco Processors (LTP)."This country's primary tobacco industry will be totally shut down within the next two years," he says, unless there is decisive action to curb illegal cigarette sales.The government "seems in no hurry" to do this, however. He suspects too many officials have a vested interest in the illicit cigarette business to want to end it.LTP, which is the only tobacco processing company in SA, buys all the tobacco produced by local farmers, and processes and sells it to British American Tobacco Southern Africa (Batsa).The local industry is entirely dependent on this relationship, but Batsa has given written notice to LTP that if its sales continue to fall as a result of illicit cigarettes it will have to consider buying offshore.In a letter sent to LTP in December, ...

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