Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget Speech is expected to look at innovative ways to boost economic growth, create job opportunities and alleviate poverty. One of these potential areas is the cannabis or dagga industry in South Africa.
Recently, the Eastern Cape government announced it would support legislation that allows the production of cannabis to spur economic growth in the province. The global legal cannabis market size is increasing rapidly. Developing economies in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region are beginning to realise its potential contribution to poverty alleviation, job creation and bridging the gap between the poor and rich.
Eastern Cape is also looking at ways it could tap into this market to boost the province’s economic outlook.
Premier Oscar Mabuyane says cannabis could change the province’s economic fortunes.
“Cannabis is coming up strong and we have gone around trying to experiment it. We know the laws in our country. We are working within those laws and we are really looking at government to re-look at the current laws, because we want to affirm the ordinary people that are actually cultivating this in these areas so that we can give them proper support.”
In the video below Chief Economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber Wandile Sihlobo says South Africa cannot sit aside as the world enjoys the economic benefits of the cannabis market:
Academics and rural economic development specialists want the province to enter the global market.
Rural Economic Specialist Dr Somadoda Fikeni hopes that informal cannabis farmers in the rural areas will not be forgotten.
“This is the best opportunity not to be surpassed by the Eastern Cape which does not have the land to do that, to do everything from processing to planning, but involving people who have always planted this because sometimes once you lift the ban, very clever people will come and take it up.”
Informal cannabis farmers in the rural areas say that the commercialisation of cannabis could affect them negatively.
“If cannabis is open to everybody that will mean poverty to us. I will no longer supply cannabis to our clients. We want to be self-reliant,” says one of the farmers.
The Rural Development and Agriculture Ministry is adamant that the cannabis plant and by products such as tea will change the economic outlook of the province as MEC Nomakhosazana Meth elaborates.
“I am definitely confident that working with our communities; working with all the professors; the specialists and the experts in the field of rural development and agriculture, we can indeed turn the situation around in South Africa.”
Small scale cannabis farmers want government to conduct comprehensive research on the medicinal use of the plant.
Cannabis activist, Philasande Mahlakatha, says, “Use universities like Walter Sisulu University to research what the plant contains and how it can be used and what can be isolated from it, if it must be isolated. We want the whole profile of the plant because it is totally medicinal.”
Indigenous inhabitants in Pondoland are solely dependent on subsistence farming.
Over the years, cannabis has been illegally produced and sold on the black market.
At present it is illegal to cultivate cannabis commercially without a license. O
nly four South African companies have been granted licenses to enter the medicinal cannabis export market.
It is hoped that as many as 40 more licenses could be approved within the next few months.
All eyes will be on the finance minister’s Budget Speech to see if more revenue streams will be unlocked this week for this industry to flourish.