Zimbabwe is set to become a regional center for industrial hemp production as more and more farmers get better results from their pilot projects.
These developments are the result of President Mnangagwa approving the production of industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis in 2019.
The current successes in pilot projects, which point to an increase in production in the coming years, are in line with the Second Republic’s plan to increase the contribution of agriculture to gross domestic product from 12 to 20 percent by 2030.
Although production was initially disrupted by a coronavirus pandemic, as experts could not move into the country to help farmers and set up centers of excellence, initial pilot projects have been launched in most parts of the country to ease travel restrictions.
Once production peaks, Zimbabwe is expected to be the largest producer in the region, allowing local farmers to secure a niche market for industrial hemp and related products.
A company in Headlands, Manicaland Province, is already seeing positive results from a 10 hectare pilot project, indicating the project will generate high returns.
The company plans to initially produce 1,000 hectares of industrial hemp in the Headlands and Middle Sabi.
During a recent field day organized by the company on its farm in Headlands, plans were announced to integrate smallholders into industrial hemp production through an out-grower program.
The field day was attended by ZimTrade, the Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust Canamedix, the agricultural marketing agency, and officials from the Department of Land, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement.
While touring the pilot, Takunda Chifokoyo, the director of Canamedix, said the land has good soils and access to the skills needed to increase the production of industrial hemp.
“Zimbabwe is ideal for growing hemp as it has generations of cross-generational agricultural know-how and plenty of arable land.
“Zimbabweans are faced with the decision to compete for the economic advantage of hemp,” he said.
The founder and managing director of the Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust, Dr. Zorodzai Maroveke said growing interest among farmers in considering industrial hemp shows that the country has the potential to be the largest producer in Africa.
“Farmers recognize that they can grow industrial hemp if they have enough capacity building and partner support, and the interest generated so far shows prospects for meaningful production in the years to come,” said Dr. Maroveke.
Since most of the current production is destined for export, industrial hemp will add to Zimbabwe’s foreign exchange revenues.
Allan Majuru, the chief executive officer of ZimTrade – the country’s trade development and promotion organization – said local farmers should take advantage of the growing demand for green products to grow industrial hemp for the African market and beyond.
“Demand for industrial hemp is growing worldwide and the product offers quick profits to farmers looking to diversify their export basket.
“Given the growing demand for products that are believed to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, the potential of industrial hemp to replace synthetic products means that more markets will grow rapidly as perceptions of the product continue to change,” he said.
According to a study by Grand View Research, the global industrial hemp market size was estimated at $ 4.71 billion in 2019 and is expected to experience a revenue-based average annual growth rate of 15.8 percent between 2020 and 2027.
The market is being driven by the growing demand for hemp oil and fiber in the automotive, construction, food and beverage, personal care and textile industries.
The increasing demand for oil paints, varnishes, printing inks, fuels, solvents, chain saw lubricants, putty and coatings should further stimulate product demand.
In addition, the growth in investments in the manufacture of hemp-based products is expected to drive market growth.
To maximize forecast demand, Majuru said, although exporting raw produce brings foreign currency to local farmers, there is the potential to earn more as they add value and export finished products such as clothing, paper, canvas, carpets, cordage and insulation materials.
“The production of raw materials such as bioplastics and insulation, which normally require imported raw materials, will benefit as hemp production and added value are increased to meet industry demand,” Majuru said.