Only a successful value chain will make hemp production viable

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-We can get at least one out of the 50 000 uses correct!

Cabinet on Tuesday approved the proposal to legalise the production of industrial hemp in order to derive benefits from such of its numerous uses. At present, hemp is illegal to produce in Zimbabwe but Cabinet did say that the law governing the use and control of hemp in the country will be repealed to reflect the current industrial thrust of the country. This means that there will be further revisions to Statutory Instrument 62 of 2018 which okayed production of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes only.

It has always been confusing that industrial hemp is perceived as marijuana. Even the Dangerous Drugs Act in Zimbabwe equates industrial hemp to marijuana/dagga. No doubt, these two are related. Both industrial hemp and Marijuana come from the plant family Cannabis Sativa L, but from different varieties. Marijuana contains high levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), about 30 percent while THC content of industrial hemp is 0, 3 percent. Researchers have argued that you will not get “high” when you take hemp unlike marijuana because of the low (very low) THC content in industrial hemp.

Interestingly, it is legal to import hemp products into Zimbabwe. According to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, industrial hemp processed imports (including fibre, flour, textiles and clothing) in Zimbabwe were valued at $17 million in 2011,and have been on the rise reaching up to an excess of $40 million in 2016.

Industrial hemp is one of the most important fibre crops in the world. It has been cultivated for a longer time than any other fibre crop. In fact, hemp may be the plant that started humans down the road toward civilization with the invention of agriculture. All archaeologists agree that cannabis was among the first crops purposely cultivated by human beings at least over  ,000 years ago, and perhaps more than 12 000 years ago.

There is a never-ending list of benefits of the crop with products ranging from clothing and textile, to fibre and food stuffs. In specific terms, there are at least 50,000 uses of industrial hemp. Hemp is grown in more than 30 countries including Malawi, China, South Africa, and France. ln 2016, the top hemp-producing country was China, followed by Chile and the European Union (EU).

An acre of industrial hemp produces 8 000 pounds of hemp seed which when cold-pressed yields 300 gallons of hemp seed oil and a by-product of 6 000 pounds of high protein hemp flour.Hemp seed oils are both food and bio-fuel. Currently, the productive seed oil crops in Zimbabwe are soyabeans, sunflower and rape seed or canola.

Each of these three seed oil crops produces between 100 and 120 gallons of oil per acre. Hemp seed produces three times more oil per acre than the next most productive seed oil crops, over 300 gallons/acre, with a by-product of 3 tons of food per acre. lndustrial hemp seed oil is also far more nutritious and beneficial to our health than any other seed oil crop and environmentally sustainable as there are hardly any herbicides and/or pesticides required to grow it.

Over and above the food and oil produced, there are several other by products and benefits to the growing of this crop.

·         Hemp bust fibre

6-10 tones/acre of hemp bust fibre. Hemp bust fibre makes canvas, lace, Iinen and ultra-thin specialty paper.

·         Hurd fibre

25 tonness of hemp hurd fibre/acre

Hemp hurd fibre makes all grades of paper, composite building materials, animal bedding and material for the absorption of moisture and oils. The residual flowers, after the seeds are extracted, are used for medicinal purposes.

This crop is a billion dollar project because in its chain we will have industries that will give the economy jobs, medicinal cures and billions of dollars of revenue.

Let’s do the math

What is an acre of industrial hemp worth?

1 acre of industrial hemp:

= 8 000 hemp seed = 300 gallons of oil at US$150/gallon = US$45 000

= 6 000 pounds of hemp flour at US$2/pound=US$12 000

= 31 tons of raw stalk inbales at US$7Sitonne = US$2,325

= 6 tons of bast fibre at US$1 000/ton = US$6 000

= 25 tons of hurd fibre at US$300/ton = US$7 500

This sums to a total of US$60 825/acre at the very least.

Is there any crop that produces this amount?

Hemp is therefore the most productive source of oil, fibre, biofuel, cloth, medicinal cures and protein, is robbing the nation billions of potential revenue.

·         Additional Reporting from Business Times