Biltong is safe from lockdown (for now) even though specialist shops ‘are breaking the law’
Biltong is not essential, and specialised stores selling it during South Africa's Covid-19 lockdown are breaking the law, a government regulator has claimed without evidence.
But other retailers continue to sell biltong, and manufacturers say they are not aware of any change in the status of biltong – even those manufacturers with "biltong in the name".
Last week retailers stopped selling hot food, such as roast chicken, after Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel said it had always been clear that prepared food is not an essential item, and so may not be sold.
Under lockdown rules those retailers who stay open because they sell essentials may only sell essentials, and no other items.
It is still not clear on what basis Patel banned hot food. According to lockdown regulations "any food product, including non-alcoholic beverages" is essential, in a rule that has never changed.
Retailers continue to sell sweetened drinks, chocolate, baked deserts, and other comestibles arguably not necessary to sustain human life.
On Thursday it seemed that biltong would join roast chicken as banned without clear reason, when the unit of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) that issues essential-services permits first said specialised biltong sellers are acting illegally, then threatened to revoke all permits for businesses with the word "biltong" in their name.
As of Monday morning at least the majority of specialised biltong stores in major cities were indeed closed, a survey by Business Insider South Africa found, but retailers were continuing to sell pre-packaged biltong and offer it from deli counters.
Butchers too were making and selling biltong as per usual.
Major manufacturers of biltong said they were open and active, and some had even made special provisions to sell directly to the public during the period of lockdown, to avoid logistics bottlenecks and prevent shortages on shelves that could lead to a perception of food running low.
That included one manufacturer that has "biltong" in its name, which said it had received an amended certificate that will allow it to continue trading through the extended lockdown.