Sunday World (South Africa)

KZN cannabis farmers fear winds of change

With legality comes taxes, says grower

- By Sandile Motha sandile@sundayworl­

Kwazulu-natal has described the cannabis revolution as a game changer for the rural economy and mass scale creation of jobs.

But many villagers who have illegally cultivated the worldfamou­s plant for decades as a livelihood for their families say they are treating the new developmen­ts with scepticism.

“From what we’ve heard the commercial licence to sell cannabis is very expensive and it’s a strenuous process. Our other concern is the involvemen­t of the government and politician­s. As it stands, in a good month I make about R46000 from selling to Gauteng and KZN customers,” said Zazi Shozi of Bergville in the Kwazulunat­al midlands.

Shozi said under the status quo, business was hampered by a number of external factors such as having to constantly bribe police officials for the product to reach its destinatio­n.

“I don’t mind paying as long as the product arrives at the customer as quickly as possible. With the government comes red tape,” he said.

Another cannabis subsistenc­e farmer Delani Mkhungo of Okhukho, near Ulundi, said the regulation of the dagga trade would eat into their profit.

“Once we have been recognised as cannabis commercial farmers, we will be required to pay VAT and other forms of taxes to SARS. The only thing that people want is for the authoritie­s to release land and assist them in accessing markets,” said Mkhungo.

Kwazulu-natal is believed to have an ideal climate for cannabis cultivatio­n. South Africa is the third-largest producer of cannabis in the world. According to the UN the country produces about 2500 tonnes of cannabis a year and Kwazulunat­al leads the pack.

Traditiona­l farmers in the informal trade in marijuana include Rastafaria­ns, traditiona­l healers and subsistenc­e farmers. A large percentage of them are concentrat­ed in the province’s south coast, midlands, Drakensber­g region, emangwanen­i, Zululand, Kokstad and Underberg.

Sheldon Kramer of the non-profit organisati­on Kwazulu-natal Cannabis Developmen­t Council said there had been a sudden surge in people getting into the cannabis business, mostly hemp growers.

“The commercial and industrial cannabis complex is thriving in KZN and is providing upliftment for many poorer subsistenc­e farmers. The current cannabis industry in the province is fast becoming one of the most advanced and progressiv­e in the country, mainly due to a more relaxed attitude by authoritie­s,” said Kramer.

Meanwhile, the KwazuluNat­al government has assembled a provincial cannabis committee, which is tasked with fast-tracking the developmen­t of the industry. Premier Sihle Zikalala said about 24000 direct jobs would be created by the industry, injecting more than R30-billion annually into the economy.

 ?? ?? The commercial and industrial cannabis complex is thriving in Kwazulu-natal and is providing upliftment to subsistenc­e farmers.
The commercial and industrial cannabis complex is thriving in Kwazulu-natal and is providing upliftment to subsistenc­e farmers.

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