Hemp Farming

As of October 2021, Hemp has been identified as an agricultural crop and Cannabis plants with less than 0,2% THC are now regulated through the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, through the Plant Improvement Act No. 53 of 1976. Compared to starting a medicinal Cannabis facility, licensed by SAHPRA, switching your crop-production farm (food crops, grain or other agricultural crops) over to Hemp is much more attainable and affordable.

Hemp Farm Output Products

When considering the switch over to Hemp, we always advise that you start with the end in mind – what do you want your output products to be? You can grow Hemp for smokable flower (think Hemp cigarettes), industrial Hemp for fiber production (textiles, rope, hempcrete, etc.) or grain production for animal feeds. The list doesn’t end there and it’s important to define your end-goal before starting anything. The type of output product you decide to produce will have a significant impact on the requirements for your facility relating to space, equipment, seed specification and infrastructure requirements.

Hemp Farm Infrastructure

If your farm is registered with DALRRD (or DAFF, if you’ve been doing this for a while), you’re already likely to comply to much of the infrastructure requirements for a permitted Hemp farm. The important (and often costly) factor is that your farm needs to be fenced. Unlike licensed SAHPRA facilities, which require double fencing (and electrical at that), your Hemp farm simply requires standard fencing that prevents unauthorised access by humans and animals – electric fencing is not a must.

Depending on your chosen output product, you’ll grow your Hemp in either greenhouses (specifically for higher quality output requirements, like smokable Hemp flower) or in your normal farmlands. Hemp production is limited to 50 hectares per permit and each farm that cultivates Hemp, has to have its own permit. This may mean that you convert only a section of your farm to Hemp, while retaining some (or all) of your usual crops. Much of the equipment utilised on your farm can be used for the cultivation of Hemp, too – depending on your output product and offtake requirements, you may need procure some additional equipment.

As with any other crop that you’d cultivate, Hemp requires an Integrated Pest Management system, the details of which will be determined by your output product – smokable flower would require more care and attention than Hemp cultivated for fiber production, for example.

Seeds / Propagation Material

South Africa doesn’t have any listed Hemp varieties at the moment, which means that seeds are currently mostly imported. Similar to other crops, seed procurement can be the most costly aspect of the entire operation. Luckily, there are already some local establishments who import Hemp seed in bulk and make it available to local farmers, with the required phytosanitary certification and varietal information. Authorisation can be obtained from DALRRD to establish unlisted varieties, for those who do not wish to engage in the tedious and costly process of varietal listing and seed certification. If you’re planning on breeding or cultivating for seed production, however, you’d need to follow this process to be able to sell your Hemp seed locally or internationally.

Hemp farm Compliance

If you wish to perform any activity involving Hemp, you must apply for a Hemp permit. To be able to apply for a Hemp permit, your premises must be registered with DALRRD – something you most probably already have in place if you’re a farmer. Applying for a Hemp permit is a fairly simple and very cost-friendly process – we can help you complete the application forms and put together a thorough application. The application requires information about your farm, the current processes you’re involved in, your proposed Hemp activities and personnel qualifications. You’ll also require Police Clearance Certificates for the owners and managers on your farm. The ongoing compliance of Hemp farms relates to reporting, sampling and testing, and facilitating inspections from DALRRD representatives – also something we make a seamless process for you.

Hemp Farm Quality Management Systems

It is good practice and attractive to offtake partners and DALRRD inspectors alike, to implement a Quality Management System for the operations of your farm. Seeing as farming Hemp can be different to other crops, we recommend GlobalG.A.P.’s Combinable Crops – Hemp module. Global Good Agricultural Practices is an international farming standard, meaning that if you implement and get certified according to this standard, your offtake products will be certified and recognised on an international level – an attractive benefit to global offtakes. Having a QMS in place means that your operations are standardised to best practices and allows you control over your activities, while ensuring your output quality is as high as possible.

Benefits of Switching over to Hemp

As you can see, depending on your current infrastructure, there is minimal conversion required to switch over to Hemp production. The low cost associated to obtaining a permit, means you can first complete a trial run before deciding to cultivate the full 50 hectares available to you. Hemp is a high value crop of which the demand will only rise in the next coming years. The industry is still young and the possible output products for Hemp is growing as legislation opens up worldwide. South Africa is also well known for the production of high grade Cannabis and Hemp due to our ideal climate, meaning that global offtakes are extremely attainable – and profitable, considering that you’d be paid in international currencies. Finally, depending on your output products, Hemp can be cultivated in 90 – 120 days, even outdoors, which means that you won’t have to spend the whole year on one harvest.

If you’re a current farmer interested in getting involved in the Cannabis industry, Hemp farming is the lowest hanging fruit. We can help you with the conversion and provide all the support you’d need to have a smooth transition. Contact us today for a consultation to help you start something new and exciting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *