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Hemp In A South African Context 2019: The Road To New Legislation

Carmen Ray

Well-Known Member
Greetings all. This is more of a question than anything else. Let me frame it. I am hearing conflicting accounts on whether it is viable to grow hemp for biomass in South Africa or not. There is this thesis written by Camilla Coogan for a Masters at Stellenbosch University: The South African hemp story: saviour crop or business as usual? She concludes the following:

"The lack of clarity as to the actual extent of the existing and potential market for hemp in South Africa and the absence of a commercial feasibility report and official hemp business documentation (from cultivation to finished product) make it difficult to estimate the economic viability of hemp in South Africa..... Additionally, the commercial incubation trials have been restricted to two hectare plots, which is too small an area to estimate commercial viability, especially with regards to cultivating for fibre, as economies of scale are needed to substantiate investing in the processing equipment. It is essential that the outstanding commercial feasibility study is completed and shared among all stakeholders. Subsidies for initial start-up capital and short-term training courses have proved unsuccessful, so perhaps subsidies should be more wisely aimed at building the necessary mechanisms for knowledge generation and transfer, ensuring the necessary institutional framework is in place to support research and development."

However, there is a lot of hype in this grey period between decriminalization and a new regulatory framework. Why have the State (tax money) sponsored hemp trial run by Thandeka Khunene et al, over decades, raw data and findings not been made available to research? Something must be there that they don't want us to see. What is it that they don't want us to see? KZN farmer grows 1,000ha of cannabis - but you can't smoke it

The Richard Rose Report has this to say: Oxymoron: Tropical Hemp - "Low-THC hemp is a temperate crop and traditionally didn’t grow south of 35° (that was >0.3% THC marijuana instead) ...It’s not that this obstacle can’t be overcome, but first you have to know it’s something to be overcome. There’s a breeding solution, but just throwing Euro or Canadian hemp seed in the ground in say Colombia, it will fail. One needs a late-flowering genetic in the tropics, and all the certified hemp is early-flowering. An autoflower (day neutral) variety has a better chance of succeeding. If all you want is fiber in lower latitudes, consider growing Kenaf instead. It is like fiber hemp in so many ways, and likes the south."

So, as a lay-person / stakeholder in future cannabis enterprises, what should I believe about hemp in South Africa? Who holds the key? Is it Kunene? Surely we have a right to know.
 

TorturedSoul

Member of the Month: May 2009, Oct 2010, Sept 2017
It's a 100% viable concept, IMHO. Cannabis (which is what hemp is) can pull toxins out of the ground. It can be used to produce paper - and can be grown / harvested / rinse/lather/repeat much faster than when the crop being used... is a tree. The seeds can provide nutrition and/or oil. The plant matter can be used as a building material ("hempcrete"). It can be used to produce clothing and other fabric-related items. Rope, obviously. Et cetera.

I don't know what the economy is like in your cities, or your country in general. But it seems to me that, across the continent, you have a ready source of cheap labor. I'm thinking... that this labor pool is likely to be less able to purchase imported finished products or (possibly) even imported raw materials. And that, aside from corporate entities, might not be able to spend, for example, the equivalent of $100,000US on a piece of farm machinery, let alone a dozen high-priced machines.

Cannabis is a crop that lends itself well to manual labor. In places where labor costs are high and unemployment rates are low, that's not really a factor. But if you have ready access to cheap labor, or can import it from nearby countries, or can locate farms in those countries, well...

It's also a crop that could be grown on small farms. A family, perhaps with one or a small few additional workers, could probably earn enough to get by (assuming some effort was spent on educating people in regards to responsible farming practices, with the lessons tailored to the local conditions). Small grows aren't likely to produce enough for export - although there is the possibility of several and/or many getting together and forming co-ops, for the purposes of selling their harvests, if nothing else) - but there's no reason they cannot produce and sell raw materials at what would be considered reasonable prices locally, which opens up the opportunity for other locals to then buy those raw materials (at a reasonable price), use them to create finished products, and then in turn sell the finished products at reasonable prices. With more people working, there are more people with more money to spend on finished products (et cetera). And this is how thriving economies are born (and grown ;) ).

But, yes, just buying random strains of (hemp) cannabis and trying to make a go of things isn't the right way to go about it. Optimally, you'd want to be able to purchase seed of strains that have already been determined to thrive in your climate, altitude, soil conditions, with the amount of water they'd be receiving, under your local outdoor light schedule, etc. Lacking this, you'd really want to buy some relatively small quantity of as many different varieties as possible, and try growing them all out. This would not be a time of great income (and the opposite would be likely). Hopefully, some government or other in Africa could be convinced to offer a grant - and could be made to understand that this would be a true investment in the future, not money that would be recouped next month, or possibly even next year. If it were me writing the grant application, I would stress both the importance and the benefit of having all this be a domestic concern, rather than something to draw foreign investments (at least initially). After all, YOU should own your own future, yes? I'm sure there were lots of (potentially) great ideas that could have ended up helping your people, and that of other Africans - that ended up not really helping them after all, because there was a perceived need for foreign money to help the thing along - and now the bulk of the profit from the activity is flowing... elsewhere.

Statistically speaking, peoples who are doing well, economical, are well-employed, et cetera are far less likely to make war on their neighbors than those who are not. Just something to think about. . . .
 
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Carmen Ray

Well-Known Member
It's a 100% viable concept, IMHO. Cannabis (which is what hemp is) can pull toxins out of the ground. It can be used to produce paper - and can be grown / harvested / rinse/lather/repeat much faster than when the crop being used... is a tree. The seeds can provide nutrition and/or oil. The plant matter can be used as a building material ("hempcrete"). It can be used to produce clothing and other fabric-related items. Rope, obviously. Et cetera.

I don't know what the economy is like in your cities, or your country in general. But it seems to me that, across the continent, you have a ready source of cheap labor. I'm thinking... that this labor pool is likely to be less able to purchase imported finished products or (possibly) even imported raw materials. And that, aside from corporate entities, might not be able to spend, for example, the equivalent of $100,000US on a piece of farm machinery, let alone a dozen high-priced machines.

Cannabis is a crop that lends itself well to manual labor. In places where labor costs are high and unemployment rates are low, that's not really a factor. But if you have ready access to cheap labor, or can import it from nearby countries, or can locate farms in those countries, well...

It's also a crop that could be grown on small farms. A family, perhaps with one or a small few additional workers, could probably earn enough to get by (assuming some effort was spent on educating people in regards to responsible farming practices, with the lessons tailored to the local conditions). Small grows aren't likely to produce enough for export - although there is the possibility of several and/or many getting together and forming co-ops, for the purposes of selling their harvests, if nothing else) - but there's no reason they cannot produce and sell raw materials at what would be considered reasonable prices locally, which opens up the opportunity for other locals to then buy those raw materials (at a reasonable price), use them to create finished products, and then in turn sell the finished products at reasonable prices. With more people working, there are more people with more money to spend on finished products (et cetera). And this is how thriving economies are born (and grown ;) ).

But, yes, just buying random strains of (hemp) cannabis and trying to make a go of things isn't the right way to go about it. Optimally, you'd want to be able to purchase seed of strains that have already been determined to thrive in your climate, altitude, soil conditions, with the amount of water they'd be receiving, under your local outdoor light schedule, etc. Lacking this, you'd really want to buy some relatively small quantity of as many different varieties as possible, and try growing them all out. This would not be a time of great income (and the opposite would be likely). Hopefully, some government or other in Africa could be convinced to offer a grant - and could be made to understand that this would be a true investment in the future, not money that would be recouped next month, or possibly even next year. If it were me writing the grant application, I would stress both the importance and the benefit of having all this be a domestic concern, rather than something to draw foreign investments (at least initially). After all, YOU should own your own future, yes? I'm sure there were lots of (potentially) great ideas that could have ended up helping your people, and that of other Africans - that ended up not really helping them after all, because there was a perceived need for foreign money to help the thing along - and now the bulk of the profit from the activity is now flowing... elsewhere. Just something to think about. . . .
I couldn't agree with you more, from an socio-economic development perspective. What concerns me is that I don't think that people realize that northern hemisphere cannabis is different from southern hemisphere cannabis, and that climate affects the viability in the way that it does. I think we are being sold an idea, a marketing campaign for big hemp. and big pharma. We need to demand that Thandeka Kunene release her raw data and findings from her government funded hemp project. We need to know the science in our own soil.
 
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