Brexit, chillies and change

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Black Mamba is a small and growing food company, based in Swaziland, which produces chilli sauces, pestos and chutneys.

Their main ingredients are locally-grown organic chillies. The majority of the growers are women, who tend chilli plants near their homes while also caring for their grandchildren. They’ve become known as the ‘chilli grandmas’.

One of the chilli grandmas explains how selling to Black Mamba has benefited them: ‘With the money we have earned we have managed to pay for the diesel pump which we use for watering the fields and we are also able to look after our homes by buying food, paying the school fees and buying clothing.’

Another goes on: ‘We trust Black Mamba. They are a good buyer and every year they always increase the price that we get.’

But like many companies across Africa which export to the UK, Black Mamba is facing challenging times.

First off, they’ve had to deal with the devaluation of the pound. That has meant that their costs have increased, but in a competitive market, they’ve not been able to put up their prices. With time, this may improve – but meanwhile, another big change is looming.

At the moment, Black Mamba products can be imported into the UK duty free – so no extra tax needs to be paid.

When the UK leaves the EU, this could all change.

If our government fails to put any new policies in place, Black Mamba products are likely to face import taxes of around 7.7%. Yet another increase in costs which could have a big effect.

As Claudia Castellanos of Black Mamba explains: ‘Even a small increase in price has an effect on our sales, and that means we can’t afford to work with more growers, or take on more employees – and that threatens the positive impact that Black Mamba can have on communities in Swaziland.’

That’s why Traidcraft and others are challenging the government to make sure Brexit works for everyone.

We’re calling on the government to make an immediate offer to extend the best of the European market access schemes to all poor and economically vulnerable countries like Swaziland.

That would reassure companies like Black Mamba that they could continue to invest in the local community secure in the knowledge that they can sell their amazing chilli sauces in the UK.

 

J McNaughton