German, Swiss, Canadian companies get licenses in Zimbabwe

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Investors from Germany, Switzerland and Canada are among those who have received cultivation and processing licenses under Zimbabwe’s cannabis program. A total of 57 licenses were handed to both foreign and local enterprises, the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) announced this week.

The Ministry of Lands and the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe are working with ZIDA in administration of the cannabis business, and share authority for regulatory requirements.

ZIDA said some farms are already operating.

The foreign entities licensed this week “own 100% of their investment,” ZIDA said in a statement issued Sunday.

The government had intended to manage Zimbabwe’s cannabis industries under state ownership when it embarked on hemp trials two years ago. It later abandoned that strategy to encourage private investment in hemp and medical marijuana, the only subsectors in which operators can open legal businesses under the country’s cannabis laws.

Swapping tobacco for hemp

The Zimbabwean government sees industrial hemp as a replacement for the country’s falling tobacco exports. Zimbabwe is Africa’s largest tobacco producer, but the country has seen that sector shrink in light of global trends away from smoking. That has contributed to stagnation which has beset the country’s economy for nearly two decades despite the African nation’s vast wealth of natural resources. Tobacco makes up roughly 20% of Zimbabwe’s exports.

The government has established the Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust (ZIHT), a development initiative set up to assist farmers in starting up hemp operations, and to look for new export markets for their hemp outputs.

The government is also making available 99-year leases on state-owned farms to kickstart cannabis farming. Zimbabwe harvested its first crop of legally cultivated industrial hemp in February 2019 after decriminalizing cannabis growing in 2018. Regulations to guide the industry were released in October 2020.

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