It appears that only a handful of farmers will be able to cash in on the new opportunities generated by Zimbabwe’s legalisation of cannabis production for medicinal and scientific purposes.

Ben Percell-Gilpin, CEO of the Commercial Farmer’s Union of Zimbabwe, said the union had not been consulted and still required finer details on the issue, but he expected the new legislation to benefit primarily foreign investors already in the business and looking for other opportunities.

The majority of farmers would struggle to take advantage of the opportunity, as cannabis production for medicinal and scientific purposes was a highly specialised field requiring extreme security measures that were out of most farmers’ scope.

Percell-Gilpin said he had not seen an official publication on what a production permit would cost, but assumed it would be prohibitive.

According to various media reports, a five-year production licence would cost US$50 000 (about R631 000) and farmers would have to make an annual return payment of US$15 000 (R189 000).

A production permit in South Africa costs approximately R24 000.

He was extremely pleased, however, about reports that the Zimbabwean government would soon change legislation that grouped hemp with cannabis, which was used as a drug.

“This will open up a new industry and value-chain in the industrial hemp side and is likely to have a major impact on farming incomes,” he said.

Griffith Molewa, head of the law enforcement unit at the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, was surprised by the media coverage reporting that Zimbabwe had become the second African country after Lesotho to legalise cannabis production for medicinal and scientific purposes, as South Africa had already done so at the end of last year.

“We’ve so far received twenty production applications, which we’re currently screening,” he said.

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