Zimbabwe’s high hopes for Cannabis crops

Written on 12/01/2020
Melani Nathan

Zimbabwe has legalised the cultivation of Cannabis for medicinal use and export.

Around the world, 22 countries have legalised Cannabis for medicinal use. The latest country to legalise the growing of the crop  is Zimbabwe. Treasury spokesman Clive Mphambela says that the country expects Cannabis crops to earn almost three times as much as its biggest export, tobacco. A local economist warns that enthusiasm about the newest legal crop will be dampened by the reality of established competition in the global market.- Melani Nathan

Zimbabwe $1.25 billion plan sees Cannabis as biggest cash crop

By Ray Ndlovu

(Bloomberg) — Zimbabwe sees export earnings from cannabis outstripping those of tobacco by almost three times after last year legalizing the cultivation of the plant for medicinal use.

The government has issued 44 licences since September when it announced rules for growing cannabis, and sales are forecast to reach $1.25bn in 2021, Treasury spokesman Clive Mphambela said by phone Monday. Thirty producers “are ready and some were doing test production,” Mphambela said. He declined to comment on stocks of cannabis available for export.

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Tobacco is the southern African nation’s biggest agricultural export and earned $444m from the 2020 marketing season that closed in August, according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.

John Robertson, an independent economist based in Harare, said the projections were ambitious. “It’s a massive over-estimate and ignores that cannabis is grown in many markets outside of Zimbabwe,” he said by phone.

“It’s sold in grams, not in kilograms or tons, so there will be disappointment,” Robertson said. “The only enthusiasm will be from producers, but massive supply globally will depress prices.”

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South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Lesotho have also legalized medicinal cannabis.

In his budget statement on Nov. 26, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said cannabis production for medicinal purposes has “immense potential” to generate export receipts and tax revenues. A so-called cannabis levy will be introduced next year, in line with export values, Ncube said. Taxes of as much as 20% will be applied on oils, bulk extracts and dried cannabis flowers.

Growers, most of whom are locals with international partners, can produce $40 million to $46 million worth of cannabis a month, underpinning Treasury’s “very conservative” estimates, Mphambela said.