The Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) is expected to reduce licensing fees for industrial hemp production to encourage many local farmers to grow the crop.
In a media briefing in Dowa recently, CRA board chairperson Boniface Kadzamira said the decision follows concerns of many farmers that the fees were prohibitive.
He said: “The CRA board will soon release new industrial hemp licensing fees because it is easy to grow than medicinal hemp which is more complicated and capital intensive to produce. The reduced fees will encourage many farmers to take part in industrial hemp production.”
Kadzamira said industrial hemp is easy to produce because it grows in an open space while medicinal hemp is produced under regulated conditions in terms of light and temperature.
And in an interview yesterday, he said the board is expected to meet in June to come up with industrial hemp licensing fees.
Mathews Osman, chairperson of Mchinji Cannabis Cooperative described the decision to reduce fees as a welcome development.
“Industrial hemp is a capital intensive crop. As such, not only should the government reduce the fees, but also consider cooperatives that are facing challenges to roll out production,” he said.
Osman said his cooperative paid for two licences, one for industrial hemp at about K2 million and another for medicinal hemp at K9.4 million.
Director of Agriculture Extension Services Jeromy Nkhoma said government is committed to seeing as many local farmers as possible growing industrial and medicinal hemp.
He further said government is encouraging farmers to form groups and bring together their resources such as land and finances to meet production requirements.
Said Nkhoma: “One biggest setback on the part of local farmers is mindset.
“We need a mindset change to effectively participate in big and capital intensive ventures such as industrial and medicinal hemp production.
“Forming cooperatives is one of the way of reducing challenges they face.”
Mchinji Cannabis Cooperative started with 56 members, but today only 43 are active.
Kadzamira said apart from capital, another challenge is the requirement that farmers should first find buyers before producing the crop.
He, however, hinted that industrial hemp has a huge market as it is used in timber, oil, soap and paper making industries.
Although hemp is yet to start showing economic returns, experts think it is a game changer for the country which currently relies on tobacco as the main cash crop. n