With 72 companies and cooperatives registered to cultivate cannabis in the country, the Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) is short of K2.1 billion to effectively regulate the industry.
The authority’s board chairperson Boniface Kadzamira said that one of the challenges included the financial capacity to ably regulate the industry because “what the law pressed upon it (CRA) is beyond regulation.”
He said there was a need to monitor and inspect compliance to the law, promote local participation and conduct lab testing at every stage of the value chain.
Kadzamira said, being a new industry, there was also a need to sensitise the interested groups to cannabis agronomy, but the authority could not manage to carry out these important activities due to the level of funding it was getting.
He said in the 2021-22 National Budget, the Treasury allocated K200 million to the authority, but hoped that it could be revised in the mid-year budget review.
“If we want this industry to supplement other cash crops, then the government should adequately fund CRA in these initial stages because we believe it will be self-sustained once it is firmly established,” he said.
Kadzamira further stated that the other challenge was on market linkages because most cooperatives it intending to cultivate have not been advised on what to grow, what to harvest and at what stage by their off-takers.
“We are running into a situation where most will run to grow without understanding what products will be required by their off-takers,” he said.
He called on the Ministries of Agriculture, Trade and Industry to focus on identifying reliable markets for cannabis, just like what happened to tobacco where the government came up with AHL as a tobacco market.
Treasury spokesperson Williams Banda said the authority has an approved budget of K200 million for setting up the organisation and recruitment.
“CRA will be monitored and evaluated on how they have taken off. The government will always ensure that its operations are appropriated in the budget,” said Banda.
CRA started issuing licences in May 2021.
Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu said the authority was still using subventions from the ministry.
“We are still engaging relevant stakeholders intending to find funds that can be used in the operations of this authority and make sure that this authority gets what it wants for a smooth transaction,” he said.
On availability of markets, Lungu said the ministry has been working with CRA as well as the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre—under the Ministry of Trade—in searching for markets for cannabis further stating that there was progress.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.