Pakistan has woken up to the hemp revolution… first licenses will go to Pakistan’s science and technology ministry and the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) for industrial and medical use of hemp
Sept 2 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s government has approved the industrial production of hemp, which could generate foreign exchange of up to $1 billion in the next three years, the minister for science and technology said on Wednesday.
A cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan approved a summary on Tuesday to allow legal production for the first time, the minister Fawad Chaudhry told a news conference in Islamabad.
“We want that this hemp market could give us around $1 billion in the next three years,” he said, adding the global market is worth around $25 billion.
The summary seen by Reuters says the ministry sought permission to cultivate industrial hemp after deliberation by the ministries of commerce, narcotics control and national health services.
The Dawn news service (Pakistan) also reports
The minister had first announced the decision on Tuesday on Twitter, saying the cabinet had approved the first license for the science and technology ministry and the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) for industrial and medical use of hemp. He said the “landmark decision” would place Pakistan in the international cannabidiol (CBD) market worth billions of dollars.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Chaudhry said some people were misinterpreting the cabinet decision as allowing the cultivation of a poppy-like crop in Pakistan which could be used to make addictive drugs.
He clarified that the industrial hemp plant contains a compound called cannabidiol, which can “play a very important role” in medical therapies meant to mitigate severe and chronic pain. He noted that several countries including China and Canada were cultivating hemp on tens of thousands of acres.
The plant’s seed is used to make hemp oil, the leaf is used in medicines, while the stem is used to make fibre that could one day replace cotton in the textile industry, according to the minister.
Chaudhry made it clear that the plant’s production was approved to be carried out only under government control for now, so that further research and safeguards of the production could be developed.
“We want the hemp market to generate $1 billion [in revenues] for Pakistan in the next three years,” he said, revealing that the places chosen for production in the first phase included sites in Peshawar, Chakwal and Jhelum.
The minister said the government was also working on introducing a new project on precision agriculture under which high-technology farms would be developed. The project will focus on non-traditional agriculture including the production of exotic vegetables such as avocadoes, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, etc.
Dr Iqbal Chaudhry, director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) based at the University of Karachi, said his research institute was chosen by the government to work on the project because it has all the equipment and expertise required for certification and validation of hemp products.
He said Pakistan will be able to easily export a number of value-added products using ICCBS’s research facilities.
Dr Hussain Abidi, member science and technology of the Planning Commission, termed the cabinet decision a “very advantageous” step. He said besides hemp’s health and medicinal uses, the fibre residue of the plant can be used to produce bio-energy as well.