Western Cape explores cannabis farming

Commercial cannabis farming is punted as a possible positive contributor to the Western Cape economy. FILE

Commercial cannabis farming is punted as a possible positive contributor to the Western Cape economy. FILE

Published Sep 25, 2022


Cape Town – The Western Cape government sees the agricultural sector as a key growth driver, and hopes new crop varieties including cannabis can help to expand the local economy.

The province launched a plan that will ultimately pave the way for residents to farm cannabis for commercial use, according to MEC for agriculture, Ivan Meyer.

“We are currently developing a CanPlan for the Western Cape to take advantage of the huge international interest and new market opportunities,” Meyer told Weekend Argus.

“When that plan is ready I will also develop an implementation plan for the rollout of cannabis farming for commercial use.”

MEC for finance, Mireille Wenger said she is also open to exploring cannabis as a means to stimulate the economy.

“We are committed to enabling the private sector to get on with their job of creating jobs ... this applies across the board, within the framework of the law, where opportunities exist, including exploring options around cannabis,” she said.

“However, the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes is regulated by Sahpra (South African Health Products Regulatory Authority) and not provinces.”

In 2018 the Constitutional Court officially legalised marijuana for private use.

However, dealing, selling or smoking it outside the confines of one’s home remains an illegal practice – it can only be used by the grower or given as a gift.

Economist Dawie Roodt said adding cannabis to the local economy would not help.

“Everyone these days wants to farm with cannabis. I don’t think that will have such a huge impact on the economy,” Roodt said.

“People are making an unnecessary hype over this dagga thing, but I really think it will not have a big impact ... but they can do it, let’s all get very high.”

Another trade expert, Ulrich Joubert said the farming of cannabis will definitely be profitable.

“If the industry in the province starts to export cannabis to the rest of the world, it can surely grow the purse of the provincial government,” Joubert said.

“But it will take years before that level can and will be reached.”

Economist and political analyst Dr Dale McKinley said the time was ripe “for cannabis and hemp to become a major part of South Africa’s agricultural income”.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

“It’s very concerning that the state and Parliament has been dragging its heels on this front, so it’s good to know that the Western Cape is moving forward with its plans in this regard.”

The Western Cape’s agriculture sector is going strong, bolstered in part by a surge in fruit exports, according to the Provincial Economic Review and Outlook (Pero) tabled this week.

Between 2012 and 2021 exports in the Western Cape expanded by 39.8%, of which the agriculture sector made the most significant contribution.

Between 2012 and 2021 exports in the Western Cape expanded by 39.8%

Fruit exports made a large contribution to the growth of agricultural exports over the past decade. Among all fruit exports in 2021, grapes, fresh or dried, made the largest contribution to total exports at 5.9%, followed by oranges at 5% and apples with 3.9%.

“In the context of a relatively slow economic performance over the last decade, the agriculture sector significantly outperformed other sectors in the province,” said Wenger in her maiden Pero report.

“The inspiring performance of this export-driven sector provides hope and possibly some future policy insights that could be applied to the rest of the economy.”

However, infrastructure challenges have been flagged as a barrier towards further growth in this industry.

“Airfreight is the preferred mode of export transport for blueberries. However, by mid-2021 there were not enough international flights from Cape Town, and fruit destined for airfreight had to be transferred by road to Johannesburg at a higher transport cost,” read the report.

“For this reason, leading exporters have been concentrating on opening more opportunities for sea freight.”

However, challenges continue to plague operations at Cape Town harbour.

“The Cape Town container terminal is gradually recovering from the delays, bottlenecks and shortages of containers induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

By March, the average waiting time at anchor was 7.6 days instead of one day. The average turnaround time was 15 days instead of four days, and 15 000 containers were moved per week while the goal was 18 000.

Climate change has been identified as another significant risk to the sector as the Western Cape is becoming increasingly prone to droughts and wildfires.

Meyer said plans have been developed to prepare its farmers for farming under severe climate conditions, including the use of technology to facilitate farming in dry conditions.

Farm murders hamper agricultural growth

    Farm attacks and murders are also said to have had a dire impact on the Western Cape agricultural economy, according to AfriForum.

AfriForum said, since 2019, 11 farmers were murdered during 111 attacks in the Western Cape. 12 attacks and four deaths occurred this year.

“Sometimes people are so traumatised that they don’t want to continue farming, which ultimately means that production is no more,” said the organisation’s Jacques Broodryk, adding that it had a huge impact on the export of agricultural products.

AfriForum said, since 2019, 11 farmers were murdered during 111 attacks in the Western Cape

Weekend Argus.

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