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GRAHAMSTOWN, South Africa – Hemp farming can help eradicate poverty, and the province "cannot give up" in establishing such an industry, agriculture MEC Max Mamase said yesterday. According to exploratory figures a gross income of between R5,000 and R10,000 per hectare can be earned with the production of the plant.

The hemp plant (Cannibis sativa) produces as tough fibre used for cloth and cordage.

"The results obtained from trials proved that hemp can be produced successfully in the Eastern Cape. We want to expand hemp production this year," Mamase said.

He said a dispute between the departments of health and agriculture on whether hemp was an industrial crop and the stigma of the plant being regarded a drug has hampered production. The department was granted a one-year contract to grow and test a crop in collaboration with the national departments of agriculture and trade and industry.

The national Hemp Initiative (NHI) was launced in August 1999 aimed at establishing a hemp industry in the country.

In the department's annual report during 2001/02 financial year, hemp trials in Libode and Qumbu were reported as successful.

About five hectares was planted and harvested. The department intends expanding the trial hectares to 20ha at Libode and 2ha at Qumbu. The hemp project at the Fort Hare University Farm was said to be "on-going" in the annual report. Mamase said "not a cent" has been spent by his department during the research phase, as it was funded by the National Hemp Foundation.

"Once it (the trial tests) is finalised only then we will fund the project". "It (hemp) is defined as a need to eradicate poverty - we cannot give up".

Copyright © 2002, East Cape News. All rights reserved.
Thozi Ka Manyisana Bisho, East Cape News
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