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Agri SA warns cannabis production could pose threat to food security

In his state of the nation address in Parliament last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said his government would this year open up and regulate the commercial use of hemp products, providing opportunities for small-scale farmers.

He said it would formulate policy on the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes to build the industry in line with global trends, and that the relevant ministers would soon announce the regulatory steps.

“Small scale farmers may prefer cannabis”

On Thursday, Agri SA said the government must consider the entire value chain when designing policy for the farming of both cannabis and hemp, especially since the focus was on small-scale farmers.

“These farmers might not necessarily have access to all the inputs necessary to ensure a successful crop, including but not limited to fertilisers and water,” the association said.

“It would also be imperative that the commercial farming of hemp and cannabis cannot interfere with food security. It is a risk that small-scale farmers may prefer to farm with cannabis or hemp because of the potential cash incentive, which could negatively impact the farming of commodities needed for food security.”

“This is a potential unintended consequence that would need careful management,” Agri SA added.

Investment in any projects should include an outcome of job creation, given the country’s untenable unemployment rate, the association said, adding that it was unclear what the job creation potential in terms of primary agriculture for the commercial farming of cannabis and hemp was.

“Job creation may be an outcome of secondary agriculture, where cannabis and hemp is processed, and products are produced and sold,” Agri SA said.

“However, this needs proper planning in terms of infrastructure development and market access to ensure the viability of the commercial farming of cannabis and hemp. Organised agriculture cannot be excluded from this planning process.”

Given the crime rate in rural areas, it was important to factor in the cost of securing a crop of hemp or cannabis when making decisions on policy, the farm organisation said, urging the government: 

“Measures to prevent cannabis production falling into illegal use is crucial.”


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