Picture: 123RF/Andrea De Martin
Picture: 123RF/Andrea De Martin

The government is looking at ways of establishing a hemp industry to help diversify the agricultural sector and to create jobs, agriculture, forestry & fisheries minister Senzeni Zokwana said. 

Currently, it is illegal to cultivate hemp in SA. Hemp production is only authorised for research purposes under special conditions granted by the director-general of the national department of health.

According to the Agricultural Research Council, hemp can be used to make more than 25,000 consumer products, from hemp clothing and accessories to houseware and cosmetics.

The global industrial hemp market size is expected to reach $10.6bn by 2025, according to US-based market research and consulting company Grand View Research.

In a written reply to a question from the EFF, which was published earlier this week, Zokwana said to date the department of health has received and is still considering 36 applications for commercial hemp cultivation. The area to be cultivated ranges from 2ha to 20ha.

EFF MP Nazier Paulsen had asked Zokwana whether there are industrial producers of hemp in SA, and whether there are plans to expand the industry in the future.

Zokwana pointed out that hemp is still regarded as a drug, and thus regulated by two pieces of legislation, namely, the Medicine and Related Substances Act administered by the department of health, and the Drugs and Trafficking Act, which falls under the purview of the department of justice and enforced by the SA Police Services.

Zokwana said his department was in talks with other relevant state entities with the aim of establishing a hemp industry.

“The department of agriculture [is] with the departments of health, trade & industry, environmental affairs, justice & constitutional development, SA Police Services, Agricultural Research Council and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research towards developing a new regulatory framework for hemp,” said Zokwana.

He said much progress has been made in dealing with technical matters regarding production of hemp, research and technology development, and commercial feasibility.

“The departments of health as well as justice & constitutional development have been requested to amend their respective legislation to facilitate commercial production of hemp and manufacturing of related products. The department of agriculture and the department of health are also developing guidelines for regulating the cultivation and manufacturing of hemp and hemp products. The two departments will make pronouncements once this process has been concluded,” the minister said.

Trade & industry minister Rob Davies recently said the government recognised the potential of commercial value chains of cannabis and related products. It will consider the obstacles and opportunities for SA to become an active and innovative player in the growing hemp market.