The Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) says at least 60 investors have expressed interest to grow industrial and medicinal cannabis in the 2020/21 growing season.
Addressing the media in Lilongwe on Wednesday, CRA interim registrar Ketulo Salipira said apart from the 60 applicants, his office is still receiving inquiries for submission of applications.
He said: “Regulations to guide the production processes are being completed now. Once they are finalised, they will guide us on the issuance of production licences.
“Our expectation is that once regulations are finalised, farmers should start to obtain licences for production this coming growing season and that is our target.”
CRA board chairperson Boniface Kadzamira said government approved four seed varieties of industrial hemp and six seed varieties of medicinal cannabis. He said the seeds will be imported.
He, however, said government is yet to announce licensing fees, dismissing earlier social media reports that the license would be pegged at K50 million.
“Those who are eager to cultivate cannabis will have to submit their application for the production licence. It is illegal to produce without a licence,” he said.
Kadzamira said marketing of the crop will not be through auction floors like tobacco, but those applying for the licence, should have ready off-takers of their produce.
Invegrow Limited, a company that conducted a research on the crop, estimated that a kilogramme of industrial hemp would fetch about K32 000 on the market with a potential direct annual benefit to Malawians in excess of K3 billion on 16.5 hectares.
The firm’s director Nebert Nyirenda said depending on whether one wants to produce fibre (stems), flowers or seeds, one can produce two or three times per season.
He said the crop has ready markets whose global value chain is estimated at $9 billion (about K6. 6 trillion), this should give local investors a basis to take up industrial hemp production.
Nyirenda said his company and other interested stakeholders have all the necessary production and processing capacities in place ready for production.
Industrial and medicinal cannabis production is expected to contribute to economic growth given its high value and readily available global markets.