Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
A LOCAL organisation has applied for a licence to produce industrial hemp, a non-narcotic fibre crop related to mbanje, which is used to make various industrial products.
Industrial hemp, technical name cannabis sativa, is used to make bond paper, cloth, vehicle seats, sofas as well as edible oil.
It is different from mbanje, whose technical term is cannabis indica or Indian indica which is smoked as a drug, Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust chief executive Dr Zorodzai Maroveke said.
She was addressing industrialists at the just-ended Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) congress in Victoria Falls where she appealed to local industry to consider investing in the production of the plant.
“This is a route we need to seriously consider as we value add as industry. This is something we have been pushing for hence we need you to take part since we are an agro-based economy. So far the challenge is legislation. We have approached Government and we are still negotiating for a licence. We are hopeful as the engagements are promising and there is light at the end,” said Dr Maroveke.
She told the conference that she had engaged Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha on numerous occasions on the issue and the minister had given support.
Minister Bimha was present at the CZI conference when Dr Maroveke made her presentation.
She said industrial hemp has various uses that have economic value.
“People should understand that this is different from the mbanje that’s smoked. This is a non-narcotic crop and is different from mbanje in terms of concentration hence it can’t be smoked as it’s not narcotic and the seed is also sterilised,” said Dr Maroveke.
She showcased some shoes, cloth rope, bricks and edible oil made from the industrial hemp, saying they were made in China and Europe.
Dr Maroveke said industrial hemp is environmentally friendly as one acre of hemp makes the same amount of paper as four acres of tree plantation and no pesticides are used in its production.
“The rope can be used for heavy duty jobs in the industry. The stock is processed into hemp that is used to make bond paper, the inner material of car seats and sofas hence there is a huge market in the automobile industry. It is also used to make heat resistant and fire proofed bricks as well as cloth and cannabis oil,” she said.
Dr Maroveke added that the oil can be used to treat cancer as it has a high concentration of anti-cancer substances.
She said industrial hemp is “phenomenal” as she challenged local industry to consider venturing into the business.
Last month, Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister Dr Obert Mpofu told captains of industry at a Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Victoria Falls that a Canadian conglomerate had submitted an application to partner Government in the production of medical cannabis.
Dr Mpofu said Government was considering the application as the Canadian company is interested in investing in the Special Economic Zones.
Production and use of marijuana is illegal in Zimbabwe and possessing the drug can attract up to 12 years in jail.
However, Dr Maroveke said industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis are different. — @ncubeleon