Small South-African cannabis farmers threatened by regulations

Small-holder farmers meant to benefit from South Africa’s new cannabis dispensation to unlock a potentially huge economic sector may be left out in the cold because of stringent regulatory requirements.  

Industry insiders have raised concerns, highlighting that the permit system required that cultivators erect fencing around the entire property. “This requirement is quite challenging because farmers who have the land and starting capital may not have the money for the fencing. That cost will run into millions and will pose a challenge for farmers who don’t have the capital,” said Sibusiso Xaba, of the African Cannabis Advisory Council.

At the end of October, the Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development Department announced the opening of applications for hemp cultivation permits, a move welcomed by organizations that have been waiting to kick-start this new economic sector. This followed the declaration of hemp as an agricultural crop under the Plant Improvement Act, which allows its importation, exportation, cultivation, sale, and research.

The government is now tasked with kick-starting a potentially lucrative sector that needs to absorb the former illicit growers in rural areas into a regulated space. It will also require effort to remove market access barriers and protect existing growers from being marginalized by large companies. 

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