Malawi’s president, Lazarus Chakwera, urged a switch to high-growth crops like cannabis, stating that tobacco, the country’s leading foreign exchange earner, was in terminal decline, reports Reuters.
Chakwera said tobacco was expected to earn less than $200 million in 2021, below previous earnings of $350 million.
“The inconvenient truth … is that while Malawi has come a long way by relying on tobacco as our … largest single crop contributor to our GDP, this reliance is now seriously threatened by declining demand worldwide,” Chakwera said. “Clearly, we need to diversify and grow other crops like cannabis, which was legalized last year for industrial and medicinal use.”
Last February, Malawi’s parliament passed a bill legalizing cultivation and the processing of cannabis for medicines and hemp fiber used in industry. It did not decriminalize recreational use, however.
The agriculture ministry will “search for a basket of alternative crops so that by 2030, Malawi can do away with its reliance on tobacco,” according to Chakwera.
Zimbabwe also recently changed regulations to encourage investment into cannabis. Zimbabwe’s new rules will allow investors to wholly own cannabis businesses instead of partnering with the government. Cannabis will now also be allowed to be produced anywhere in Zimbabwe instead of just in restricted locations. According to a government statement, investors can keep export earnings in U.S. dollars for up to four years.