By Cannabiz Africa and Owen Khamulu, Nyasa Times
Malawi’s Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) has issued 86 cannabis licenses to 35 companies and co-operatives for cultivation for industrial hemp production.
CRA chair Kadzamila gets the ball rolling with mass license announcement
CRA chairman Boniface Kadzamila said in Llilongwe on 9 April 2021 that licenses at this stage were only being issued for cultivation, processing and storage and not yet for export. He said that a total of 41 companies applied but only 35 satisfied the requirements.
Although he did not go into detail about the license fees earned, regulations allow for hemp farmers to pay US$2000 for a licence and medical cannabis exporters to pay US$10 000. It is safe to assume government raised around K4 million (US$170 000) in license revenue.
The CRA’s announcement follows criticism from impatient farmers saying that government was dragging its heels in issuing hemp licenses.
Malawi published guidelines for a hemp-orientated cannabis industry in June 2020.
(See Act here)
Malawi going full tilt for local hemp production right now, not medicinal cannabis for export
Malawi’s cannabis model is to develop an agro-processing industry that will create hemp products fpr export and reduce the country’s dependence on tobacco. Wikipedia states that Malawi is the most tobacco dependent country in the world. Last year tobacco accounted for 53% of exports bringing in revenue of US$165 million (a 45% drop over 10 years).
Hemp research in Malawi was pioneered by Invegrow Limited, founded in 2013 by Tanya Clarke. It was the first Malawian company to get official authorization to conduct research trials on industrial hemp. It says on its website (www.invergrow.com):
Tanya Clarke has walked the long, winding road of Malawian hemp legalization
“Working closely with our government counterparts and research partners, we have fostered a relationship of trust and transparency, with a commitment to education about the crop where none previously existed. The ultimate objective of our mission is to see industrial hemp adopted as a viable new cash crop in Malawi, and to see Malawians benefiting from its products at both a health and economic level.”
Invegrow instrumental in developing economic model for small-scale hemp farmers
Invegrow Limited research on industrial hemp found that a kilogramme of industrial hemp could fetch about K32 000 on the market and that there is potential for direct annual benefit to Malawians in excess of K3 billion on 16.5 hectares or K195 million per five hectares. (Note: US$1 = 22 Malawian kwacha)
Clarke told the Cheeba Cannabis Summit earlier this year that Covid and political turmoil in Malawi over the past 12 months had derailed the licensing process but she was confident of more stability in 2021. She said there was “overwhelming interest” by small-holders in growing hemp and the Malawi government was finally responding: “We’ve come a long way. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re really looking forward to exports in the year ahead”;
Malawi is emerging along with Zimbabwe as the leaders of African hemp after South Africa blew its early mover advantage status.
Malawi looks to hemp as an alternative to tobacco
Invegrow began trials with the Ministry of Agriculture in October 2015, with each imported variety undergoing three consecutive trials.The trials were finalised in 2019 legislation changed in 2020 and the Industrial Crops Association was persuaded to come on board.
All details relating to the practicalities of hemp and cannabis production in Malawi can be found on their website here (ica-malawi.org/resources)
Despite Malawi being the namesake of one of Africa’s iconic “recreational” weed brands, Malawi Gold, the government has no plans to legalize the adult-use consumption nor does it appear to have a domestic CBD health and wellness strategy.