By Elita Chikwati
Farmers have requested engagement with Government over the production of cannabis to ensure the business also benefits smallholder growers. This follows the legalisation of the production of cannabis (mbanje or dagga) for medicinal or scientific purposes.
The legalisation was announced by Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa in a Government Gazette last week under Statutory Instrument 62 of 2018 (Dangerous Drugs – Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Scientific Use Regulations).
Producers of mbanje will be licensed by the minister.
Some farmers bemoaned the high charges for the production licences.
They said the crop will end up being produced by corporates.
The licence costs $50 000.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said farmers have not been consulted and still require finer details on the issue.
“I believe we need to consult each other properly and agree on the production models. If it is an agricultural commodity then farmers need formal engagements and map out the system to use.
“There have been too many voices and widespread dissemination of informal information. We hope the Ministry of Health and Child Care has engaged the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement which then engages us,” he said
Zimbabwe National Farmers’ Union director Mr Edward Dune yesterday said cannabis had many benefits.
“The charges for the licences are prohibitive $50 000 is a lot of money.
“We wish we could be engaged or consulted in the legislative work formulation so that the productive chain is more smallholder friendly,” he said
Mr Dune said the move to legalise cannabis production was good and offered new opportunities for farmers to diversify.
“Actually countries such as the United States of America that have legalised mbanje have the best economy with a fiscal surplus of lots of money.
“Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active ingredient in mbanje dispensed as Marinol or Syndros for nausea in cancer patients,” he said.
Agriculture economist Mr Midway Bhunu said it would be difficult for authorities to control production of cannabis because of its nature.
“However, the set fees or licence fees clearly indicate that it is not a public crop. It is targeted for a few. Cannabis should be a Government- controlled crop.
“This is far from the reach of small-scale farmers in terms ability to pay for the licences. However, through ripple effect everyone should be able to benefit in the long run as this crop has several benefits ,” he said.
Cannabis can be used for food, fuel, oil, animal feed and bedding, paper, textiles, construction and cosmetics, among other things.