Hemp veteran Tony Budden has called on government to allow farmers to grow hemp for CBD. “Our hemp farmers have to be able to sell the flowers of their crops and not just plough them back into the ground as the current law stipulates.
Let farmers use the whole plant
Government should be helping farmers and not disadvantaging them from using “the whole plant” he told the Cheeba Hemp Opportunities webinar on 22 July 2021. Hemp regulations require a Section 22 license from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) to sell hemp flower AND a permit from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) to sell the fibre!
Budden appealed to DALRRD to resolve this bureaucratic nightmare as a priority if the National Cannabis Master Plan (NCMP) was to have any chance of success. Budden, founder of Hemporium and director of several cannabis businesses, has been closely involved with the SA hemp industry for the past 25 years.
His call comes as prospective hemp farmers reacted in despair to news that both DALRRD and SAHPRA are involved in licensings, with the consensus being that this will inevitably slow down the development of the hemp industry. It also transpires that prospective hemp growers will need permission from both departments to import seed.
Industry sources tell Cannabiz Africa that many of the hemp permits issued by SAHPRA last year have expired and not yet been renewed by DALRDD and that many farmers risk losing their investments because of government’s slow pace in putting practical hemp regulations in place.
Hemp value chain will take years to get off the ground
Budden said it would take several years to get the South African hemp industry going – particulary for textiles – as it required long term investment in building agri-processing capacity. He said crucial decisions needed to be made from a policy perspective and that regulatory clarity was essential if SA was to hope for a 2021 hemp season.
“Are we going short-fibre, or long-fibre for our textiles?” asked Budden rhetorically. “You can basically go for the top end or the rough stuff, but you have to start somewhere.”
Budden says the key to kickstarting a hemp industry that includes small-scale farmers wass to focus on hemp products that required the least capital investment.
He said the immediate low-tech opportunities were in:
- Construction materials
Fencing really is a barrier to entry!
One of the biggest barriers to entry in the hemp business is ironically fencing! Current regulations stipulate that any hemp plantations have to be secured by two electric fences and even DALRRD has conceded that this is financially onerous.
“How many farmers can afford a two-metre fence around their field?” mused DALRRD’s Dr Thabo Ramashala, chief plant pathologist and custodian of the National Cannabis Master Plan (NCMP) mused during the Cheeba webinar. “The issue of fencing is receiving attention; fencing will be required to keep out animals and children”.
Budden said he’d travelled extensively in the hemp world, from China to Colorado, and pointed out that internationally, fencing is not a compliance issue.
“Repaying the fencing costs alone will take three to four years for farmers” said Budden, who emphasized how unfair it was on farmers then to be restricted from making economic use of the whole plant.
During the webinar, DALRRD’s Dr Ramashala undertook to take up Budden’s concerns – and those of other panelists – within the corridors of power.
“We are moving into new terrain; problems and issues will arise but we are committed to getting the industry going and not put too much red tape in the way”.