BEATRICE, ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe recently scrapped rules requiring sole state ownership for cannabis farming to encourage investment in the plant for industrial and medicinal uses. Zimbabwe is Africa’s largest tobacco producer, but authorities expect hemp export earnings to start replacing tobacco as farmers seek higher earnings from the crop.
Farmer Jesper Kirk has been growing mainly tobacco since he moved to a 250-hectare farm five years ago. He now plans to increase his hectarage of hemp, a type of cannabis plant that has very low levels of THC — the intoxicating substance in marijuana — when the growing season begins in a few months.
“I went for hemp because it is an export crop,” he said. “Much more reliable market. Whereas, for example potatoes, local market crop is a little more unstable market in terms of the number of people growing it. So, I wanted a slightly stable market in terms of demand.”
About five years ago, Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust led experiments raising cannabis and the project has spread to several parts of Zimbabwe.
The trust is providing technical assistance and looking for markets for farmers, said the group’s head, Dr. Zorodzai Maroveke.
She said Zimbabwe is making a smart choice with cannabis, since the tobacco market is shrinking because of anti-smoking campaigns.
“It’s most relevant now considering the threat that the tobacco industry faces and knowing very well that Zimbabwe heavily depends on tobacco production,” she said. “It’s relevant that our economy has to start looking for alternatives. And I think industrial hemp tops the list. It’s a green crop and there is a lot of social impact in comparison to tobacco. I think in 10 years you will see the value chains that will come out of this sector are way more than tobacco.”