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DAGGA FARMERS STUCK WITH PILES OF ‘STOCK’

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PIGG’S PEAK – A dagga grower’s biggest enemy has always been law enforcement agents until the outbreak of COVID-19.

About 90 per cent of dagga grown in the Kingdom of Eswatini is smuggled out of the country, earning locals millions in collective income but this has changed as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced countries worldwide to lockdown either partially or fully. Since the partial lockdown and travel bans in other countries, it has become impossible for local growers to sell the illicit herb to foreigners who pay a high price for the ‘Swazi Gold’. Dagga possession, cultivation, selling or transportation is still illegal in the country though talks about legalisation for medicinal use are still ongoing. Since the Prime Minister (PM), Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, announced the 20-day partial lockdown, this made movements in and out of the country very difficult.

Buyers

Local growers entirely rely on foreign buyers, mainly entering through South Africa (SA) where the dagga is then transported to other countries in Europe, America as well as Australia.
The partial lockdown resulted in borders becoming strict with people entering the country without a valid reason. Some of the buyers also preferred to use informal crossings but accessibility there is equally strict in comparison to before the announcement of the partial lockdown. Speaking on condition of anonymity, growers who were reached for comment noted that the dagga was being harvested but that there were no buyers. He said many people were harvesting and storing it to avoid it getting damaged in the fields.

The grower said storing dagga required extra costs and that one had to be very careful how it was stored to avoid wastage. He further said the situation also was likely to cause the price of dagga to drop because people were desperate to sell. “They have children at their homes and they need the money to feed their families,” he said. Another said some buyers who had arrived before the partial lockdown in the country were now stuck in the kingdom. He said they were unable to leave the country due to the borders being strict so they were waiting for the partial lockdown to be over. “We do not know how long this will last but we are hoping it does not take longer than the 20 days,” he said.

 

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