Mboweni expected to focus on NHI Bill, cannabis farming during budget speech

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Finance minister, Tito Mboweni, is scheduled to table his 2020 budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon. Mboweni is expected to discuss how government projects like the National Health Insurance Fund (NHI) will be financed.

The portfolio committee on Health is meanwhile set to conclude its public hearings on the NHI in Gauteng this week which is the last province where citizens can say how they feel about the intended universal care government aims to implement.

The NHI Bill set to cost R256-billion per annum: 

Farming of cannabis

Mboweni is also expected to further discuss the announcement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the government would open and regulate the commercial farming of cannabis for amongst others medicinal purposes and the creation of hemp products.

AgriSA chairperson of Economic and Trade Centre of Excellence, Nicol Jansen, says cannabis is a complex product and factors like security need to be taken into consideration to ensure the crops are directed to the right market.

“The best will be is to study the information and see how agriculture can benefit from the measures and the production and marketing of hemp. At this stage, we don’t have all the facts but we need to get all the facts on the table and see if it can be commercialised on value and what is the value of production of hemp in this regard.”

E Cape government is investigating strategies to produce cannabis to spur economic growth:

Market size

The global legal cannabis market size is increasing rapidly. Developing economies in the 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 relooking at the current laws that are existing because we want to affirm the ordinary people that are actually cultivating this in these areas so that we can give them proper support.”

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 rural areas will not be forgotten.

“This is the best opportunity not to be surpassed by the Western Cape which does not have the land to do that, to do everything from processing to planing but involving people who have always plated this. Because sometimes once you lift the ban, very clever people will come and take it up.” –Additional reporting by Nkululeko Nyembezi