Cannabis products in agriculture – Agri SA

There are potential unintended consequences that would need careful management

Cannabis products in agriculture

20 February 2020

Agri SA notes the government's plan to open up and regulate the commercial use of hemp products, providing opportunities for small-scale farmers and formulate policy on the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes, to build this industry in line with global trends, as mentioned in the President’s state of the nation address.

The government must consider the entire value chain when designing policy for the commercial farming of both cannabis and hemp, especially since the focus is 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. Furthermore, it is vital that investment in any projects need to include an outcome of job creation, given the country's untenable unemployment rate. It is unclear what the job creation potential is in terms of primary agriculture for the commercial farming of cannabis and hemp.

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

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.

Lastly, given the crime rate in rural areas, it is important to factor in the cost of securing a crop of hemp or cannabis, when decisions are made in terms of policy.  Measures to prevent cannabis production falling into illegal use is crucial.

Issued by Thea Liebenberg, Media Liasion Officer, Agri SA, 20 February 2020