Investors push Malawi government to cash in on hemp

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A group of cannabis investors who recently visited Malawi is lobbying the government to embrace hemp. South Africa-based Canadian cannabis investor Graham Macintosh is among those encouraging politicians to allow investors to grow and buy hemp from the country.

Macintosh, of Green Quest Farmaceuticals, told local media that his company is seeking 50,000 hectares to grow hemp in South Africa. He believes Malawi can easily switch from tobacco to hemp growing. Tobacco was once a cash crop in Malawi but profits have declined in recent years and many farmers are seeking alternatives.

‘Explore the crop’s potential’

In September 2015 the British High Commissioner to Malawi Michael Nevin also suggested the country look to hemp as an alternative to the declining tobacco industry. “I hope outlining the UK experience helps the debate to move on to how Malawi could also explore the crop’s potential,” Nevin said. “The industrial and marijuana varieties are different, with only one offering a legitimate market for Malawi to exploit.”

One media estimate suggests that one kilogram of industrial hemp fetches about K32,000 ($44) on the market and that there is a potential direct annual benefit to Malawians in excess of K3 billion (around $1.4 million) on 16.5 hectares.

Not laughing now

In May 2015, Boniface Kadzamira proposed the idea of legalizing industrial hemp in Malawian parliament. While laughed at during his initial suggestion, by June 2016 the government was accepting his calls to legalize hemp in the country.

Speaking recently in support of Macintosh’s calls for regulation, Kadzamira said the government should quickly draw up guidelines to attract more hemp investors.

In 2015, under pressure from Kadzamira and others, parliament allowed the agriculture department and Invegrow, a local company, to conduct research on several varieties of hemp at the Chitedze Research Station in Lilongwe. In Salima, separate research is determining if hemp can become a viable export product. It’s hoped that as these research trials are now concluding that hemp will soon be legalized in Malawi.

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