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Zimbabwe Farmers Swap Corn for Hemp Farming – High Times

Farmers in Zimbabwe are pivoting from the country’s traditional staple crops like corn to a new lucrative crop—hemp production. Leaders in the country, however, are more worried about any disruptions to food security locally than the potential economic boon hemp will likely bring to the country.

Agriculture contributes about 18% to Zimbabwe’s total gross domestic product (GDP), and maize or corn is the country’s staple crop and accounts for a substantial proportion of the lion’s share of fertilizers that are used, the Zimbabwe Food and Agriculture Organization reports. Corn crops are followed by millet and sorghum, in terms of prevalence.

The country also adopted a unique hemp program compared to other countries. In February 2023, Zimbabwe increased the THC limit for industrial hemp from 0.3% to 1%, making significant changes for the African country’s hemp industry. That changes everything, as even 1% THC is enough to allow for products with low psychoactive effects. International companies have taken note and are utilizing growth through Zimbabwean hemp.

The rapid changes in Zimbabwe’s economy is promising but it also creates a few new concerns. ZimEye reports that the country’s hemp industry is governed by the country’s Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), and the shift into hemp production signals a new era for Zimbabwe’s economy, which has historically been rooted in food production. 

However, this pivot towards industrial hemp cultivation raised concerns over the potential negative impacts on the nation’s food security, challenging Zimbabwe’s agricultural legacy: The 1975 UN World Book records highlighted Zimbabwe—then called Rhodesia—as having the fastest-growing crop economy.

International interest in Zimbabwean hemp is increasing. Zimbabwe has exported over 8,000 tons of hemp to countries such as Poland, Switzerland, and Germany. Plantiqua Hemp, a Poland-based company, for instance, to enhance the quality and marketability of Zimbabwean hemp.

This makes AMA agribusiness director Jonathan Mukuruba optimistic about this new sector that’s growing in strength. “The future of industrial hemp in Zimbabwe looks very promising… with a growing interest in the sector, Zimbabwe is on track to emerge as a regional leader in industrial hemp production,” Mukuruba said.

Zimbabwe’s poverty rate hit nearly 40% in 2019, which is why food security is crucial in any decision for local leaders. “Poverty” is defined in the country as people who make less than $2.15 per day.

 “The challenge lies in balancing the cultivation of crops for industrial purposes with the imperative to ensure food security,” stated Dr. Frank Magama, CEO of Kutsaga Research Station. “As we explore the potential of hemp, we must also consider our longstanding tradition of food production and the critical importance of maintaining food security.”

Kutsaga Research Station is conducting research to identify hemp varieties suitable for Zimbabwe. 

Zimbabwe’s Shifting Economy and Hemp

That’s changing quickly in the African country as nearly all forms of cannabis were illegal prior to changes made in 2018. 

In 2018, Zimbabwe became the second nation in Africa to legalize medical cannabis and cannabis production for medical and scientific purposes. Since then, Zimbabwe officials registered over sixty entities in the hemp production, trade, and research sectors since the market took off in 2018.  In 2019, Zimbabwe abolished its ban on cannabis cultivation, which set the stage for the country’s farmers to begin cultivating industrial hemp to export. That same year, the country issued the first license to a medical cannabis company to begin cultivation.

In May 2022, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa commissioned a $27 million medical cannabis farm and processing plant to be run by Swiss Bioceuticals Limited in West Province, Zimbabwe.

The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe said on July 26, 2022 that it would begin accepting applicants from cannabis and hemp producers, manufacturers, importers, exporters, and retail pharmacists, in a seismic shift away from tobacco.

Higher THC caps make the country’s hemp unique.

Zimbabwe Independent reported that the THC level increase makes significant changes for CBD manufacturers, who will now be able to produce the entourage effect combined with other cannabinoids. 

The amended bill, called the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, 2002 is proposing the amendment of section 155 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) to remove industrial hemp from the list of dangerous drugs.

“By the insertion of the following definition,” the bill reads, “‘Industrial hemp’ means the plant cannabis sativa L and any part of that plant, including the seed thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not with a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than one per centum on a dry weight basis.”

With looser restrictions on hemp farming, the plant could replace maize or corn eventually as the country’s next staple crop.

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Four things Zimbabwe should be aware of to deal with the current drought – The Zimbabwe Mail

Dr Anxious Masuka
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Zimbabwe should be aware of four things so that it can effectively deal with the current drought, Lands and Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuku told Parliament on Wednesday.

Firstly, the small amounts that we have in our granary.
Secondly, the few produce that we are going to harvest.
Thirdly, we look at where we can import maize.
Fourthly, what can we grow in winter?

Responding to a question on what the government was doing to grow maize and small grains this winter because of the current food shortage, Masuka said: “We saw that if we grow wheat and small grains, farmers will get a lot of money by growing wheat instead of growing small grains in most areas of Zimbabwe.

There are very few places like in Kanyemba, Bulawayo, Beitbridge and Chiredzi, where we can have about 3 200 hectares, which we have identified that people who can grow maize and small grains,” he said.

“They can harvest more than those who grow wheat. Those are the small areas that we are targeting but the big hectares are going to be designated for wheat growing.

Those who have irrigation which are complete or almost complete, can use it in winter because we really want to grow large so that our country will have enough food.”

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Govt/FAO collaborate to mitigate agricultural livelihoods degradation – The Herald

Govt/FAO collaborate to mitigate agricultural livelihoods degradation

Ashton Mutyavaviri

GOVERNMENT is working with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to review the food security situation and outlook in the country to come up with the appropriate response strategies and mechanisms.

This comes as President Mnangagwa last week declared a state of disaster due to the El Nino-inspired drought that is threatening the country’s food security.

The two parties held an urgent high-level meeting in Harare last week co-chaired by Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MoLAFWRD) permanent Secretary, Professor Obert Jiri. The objective was to collaboratively assess the current drought situation while exploring how FAO programmes can build resilience for the country and plan for interventions in consultation and with support from the Ministry.

The parties agreed on an action plan for short and long-term interventions to address the challenges being encountered in the agriculture sector through open data, early warning and anticipatory actions as well as traditional response action.

The action plan will be spearheaded by a team of technical experts from FAO and Ministry of Agriculture.

Prof Jiri said the engagements were important to strengthen collaboration between FAO and Government in responding to the effects of the El Nino induced drought.

He stressed that they had agreed on key action plans to respond and address the short and long-term effects of the El Nino, affirming and upholding the collaborative partnership between the two entities.

Considering that 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture for food and income, urgent short and long-term interventions play a key role in averting severe food insecurity and damage to livelihoods.

During the high-level meeting, both parties presented and reflected on the current status of the food security situation and outlook with the objective to identify synergies and areas of collaboration to assess and mitigate the risk of agricultural livelihoods degradation due to El Nino.

Leveraging on FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022 – 2031 and its work in emergencies, the meeting came at an opportune time when FAO had already embarked on a regional assessment of the impacts of El Nino in Southern Africa and Zimbabwe’s assessment will be finalised in May 2024.

With the 2022 – 2026 Country Programming Framework (CPF) approaching its mid-term, FAO presented the current milestones in implementation of the CPF, highlighting the challenges encountered including the funding gaps and resource mobilisation efforts.

FAO also presented its work on global corporate and flagship initiatives including Hand in Hand Initiative (HiHi), Digital Villages Initiative (DVI) and the One Country One Priority Product (OCOPP).

HiHi is one of the initiatives, which Zimbabwe can take advantage of in responding to El Nino. For the past two years, the HiHi in Zimbabwe has set precedence in terms of public, private and development financing for investment facilitation at national, regional and international fora.

The OCOP is a country-led and country-driven initiative that focuses on Special Agricultural Products (SAPs) with Zimbabwe already focusing on the traditional soya bean value chain. The DVI seeks to transform rural economies for the better through digitalisation.

Meanwhile, FAO sub-regional coordinator for Southern Africa and representative to Zimbabwe Dr Patrice Talla said they had the opportunity to elaborate more on FAO work.

“Today, we had the chance to systematically plan and receive guidance from the Government on how to harmonise and optimise delivery and impact in responding to the effects of El Nino,” he said underlining the critical importance of consultative and multi-sectoral involvement of key stakeholders in this process.

Both parties also agreed on intensifying promotion of crop diversification with the Government implementing policy decisions anchored on use and adoption of traditional grains, which are resistant to many crop diseases and pests and can survive adverse climatic conditions such as this El Nino.

FAO also committed to support the Government in scaling up and linking irrigation and mechanisation for small-scale farmers with a strategic thrust on private sector inclusion.

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Zimbabwe has greater scope to expand its blueberry exports markets – The Zimbabwe Mail

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ZIMBABWE, which was once regarded as Southern Africa’s breadbasket, is now carving a new niche in the global food market through blueberries.

Trade Focus

By Allan Majuru

This remarkable rise, driven by marked growth in production of the fruit, comes on the back of President Mnangagwa’s commitment to agricultural development and his vision for Zimbabwe to become a key player in the international food supply chain.

In particular, his vision places strong emphasis on diversification and high-value crops.

Blueberries, which do very well under the country’s unique climatic conditions, present a compelling opportunity.

Through targeted policies and support initiatives, the Government has envisioned placing Zimbabwe as a leading supplier of blueberries from the continent.

This has undoubtedly paid off.

Last year, Zimbabwe grabbed headlines as the fastest-growing blueberry exporter, with the growth being sustained by a combination of factors, including Government support, favourable climatic conditions, and research and development, as well as market demand. The country’s blueberry exports grew by 85 percent from US$6,3 million recorded in 2021 to US$11,7 million in 2022, notwithstanding the 1 percent decline in global trade of the product.

Local temperatures, which range from 15 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius, are ideal for growing blueberries.

The rainfall patterns and soil conditions also support blueberry farming.

Further, Zimbabwe’s location in the Southern African region provides an opportunity for exporting blueberries to other countries in the region and beyond.

The El Niño phenomenon is, however, expected to negatively affect yields and trade in the 2023/2024 farming season.

Global market growth

Peru has consistently been the largest exporter of fresh cranberries, blueberries and similar fruits since 2019, having overtaken Chile. Currently, the South American country contributes approximately 30 percent of the global trade after recording exports worth US$1,35 billion in 2022.

Major export destinations for Peru are the United States (US$703 million), the Netherlands (US$309 million) and China (US$138 million). Experts, however, noted a sharp decline in blueberry exports from Peru in 2023, which had a huge impact on the global blueberry market.

Production volumes declined due to abnormally high air temperatures in production areas, especially during blueberry flowering.

While Peru currently holds the title of the world’s largest blueberry exporter, Zimbabwe’s blueberries are gaining a reputation for being of superior quality.

This presents a strategic opportunity for Zimbabwe to position itself as a premium supplier, fetching higher prices and solidifying its place in the global blueberry market.

After Peru, the Netherlands is now the second-largest exporter, with an 11,6 percent market share, having suffered a 2 percent drop in growth for the period 2021-2022.

The European country’s agriculture sector is known for its innovation and adoption of advanced technologies.

The country’s access to the European Union also gives it a comparative advantage over American producers.

The Chilean blueberry sector has shown signs of distress over the five years under review.

In 2022, the country contributed 10,8 percent to the global blueberry export, although there was a 10 percent decline in growth. Growth is expected to remain subdued for the 2023/2024 season due to the ongoing varietal replacement taking place within the Chilean blueberry industry.

Reports indicate that growers in Chile have uprooted 1 164 hectares of old varieties with lower productivity and poor post-harvest life and have replaced them with 607 hectares of new types.

In Africa, Morocco and South Africa are the largest exporters.

Both countries suffered a decline in exports during the year ending December 2022. Morocco experienced a cold snap during the end of 2022, which severely impacted several crops, including blueberries. Zimbabwe is the 22nd largest exporter of blueberries in the world, but projections are that the country will climb the ladder in the coming years as existing orchards mature.

Despite the existing constraints, as well as the increase in the cost of production and drop in returns for other countries, Zimbabwe has thrived in export markets. Some farmers have noted that the main challenge experienced in the 2022 farming season included erratic power supply, which affected irrigation in some orchards.

Zimbabwe has been expanding its export markets for blueberries, particularly targeting European and Middle Eastern countries.

Access to these lucrative markets has boosted the competitiveness of locally produced blueberries by increasing their visibility and demand on an international scale. The country’s diverse agroecological zones allow for year-round production of blueberries, giving a competitive advantage in meeting market demand.

Changes in climate patterns could negatively impact blueberry production, just as the ongoing El Niño-induced drought that has affected farmers across the country.

However, this also presents an opportunity for research into climate-resilient varieties. To meet export standards, local growers and exporters are heavily investing in on-farm and near-farm cold-chain infrastructure to meet food safety standards and quality requirements while reducing losses.

Although the country has access to several markets, expanding into new ones could provide further growth opportunities. This would require strategic planning and undertaking export promotion programmes to position the locally grown fruit on the global market.

So, farmers must take optimum advantage of export promotion services offered by ZimTrade, the national trade development and promotion agency, and its local and international partners.

Allan Majuru is the chief executive officer of ZimTrade.

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