Zimbabwean farmers hope to cash in on medical cannabis boom

Nelson Bath

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwean farmers are counting on a medical cannabis boom to revive the local economy after decades of crisis, though they still face a number of regulatory hurdles and high production costs.

This South African country, looking for new sources of income in dollars, became one of the first on the continent to legalize the production of cannabis for medical purposes in 2018. Since then, it has issued 57 licenses.

Barclays analysts say the global cannabis industry could be worth $272 billion by 2028. Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mtuli Ncube said his country is aiming for a piece of the pie valued at around one billion, more than it currently earns from tobacco, its main source of income from agricultural exports.

The Zimbabwean authorities are aware of the need to reduce the country’s dependence on tobacco, the harmful effects of which on health are widely recognized. Cannabis is considered a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, and the cannabidiol (CBD) it contains is widely regarded as a natural medicine.

But problems remain, including the huge costs of setting up under tight regulations, such as requiring the use of a greenhouse to meet the criteria for “organic cultivation” of cannabis to be able to sell it for medical use.

According to grower Munyaraji Nyanungo, the cost of producing one hectare of cannabis is $2.5 million. Thus, he and other manufacturers are lobbying the government to loosen the rules and lower costs.

Munyaraji Nyanungo expects to make a profit of $2.5 million from the first harvest in August, significantly more than he earned from other crops and livestock.

(Report by Nelson Bany, French version by Augustin Turpin, edited by Jean-Michel Belo)

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