Lesotho grower is Africa’s first to sell medicinal cannabis flower to EU

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A Lesotho-based cannabis cultivator has been approved as the first manufacturer in Africa to export the medicinal cannabis flower as an active pharmaceutical ingredient to the European Union, writes Luke Daniel in Business Insider.

Earlier Business Insider reported on a draft national master plan drawn up by the government of South Africa to loosen regulations in the cannabis industry, to promote economic development and support the creation of export markets for marijuana growers.

Lesotho cultivator’s growth and success

MG Health has been certified as meeting the EU’s good manufacturing practice standards, according to the Business Insider SA story published on 16 April 2021.

Situated outside Lesotho’s capital Maseru, in the mountainous region near Mohale Dam at 2,000 metres above sea level, MG Health operates a cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility.

A 5,000 square metre greenhouse – fitted with internal climate, temperature, humidity and lighting controls – houses plants that are dried and trimmed to produce 250 kilograms of medical-grade cannabis flower every month.

MG Health’s master plan is to increase this output to 100 tons of cannabis flower per year using a cultivation area of 160,000 square metres, according to Business Insider.

It is an optimistic outlook for a company that was only established in 2017, but one which has been supported by Lesotho’s progressive cannabis cultivation laws. The Mountain Kingdom was one of the first countries in Southern Africa to legalise the cultivation and use of medical cannabis in 2008.

The recent good manufacturing practice approval, which was officially granted at the end of March 2021, is expected to turn the cannabis start-up into a profitable industry player by September. The first exports are expected to go directly to Germany which has the highest usage of medicinal cannabis in Europe, reports Business Insider.

“We’ve followed a process with our partners in Germany in registering an extension to their narcotic licensing to include our products and we need to get the necessary import and export documentation before we can begin our first shipments,” explains Luke van der Nest, MG Health’s business development manager.

Those first shipments to Germany are expected to begin in June and will be supplied to Drapalin Pharmaceuticals, a Munich-based importer and distributor which lodged the request for good manufacturing practice approval. After that, MG Health will look to strike other deals with licensed distributors in key markets across Europe.

Business Insider continues: While MG Health is keeping a close eye on developments in South Africa, which recently formulated a cannabis master plan, Van Der Nest says the company has no intention of uprooting its operations in Lesotho.

“We’ve got a great relationship with the regulators here, do a lot for the local community and look to grow the business here. So, at the moment, we’re fully focused on Lesotho. We obviously watch South Africa very closely and we hope to see regulations, in terms of medical prescriptions, ease so we can start to service patients throughout the continent.”

MG Health believes its cannabis flower – which is also processed into extracts and oils – is of superior quality, which it says is due to the altitude at which it is grown, and the nutrient-rich water obtained from the nearby Senqunyane River, Business Insider reports.

See the link to the full Business Insider article below.


Government has a new plan to boost SA’s dagga industry

Government recently released a draft national master plan to commercialise South Africa‘s cannabis industry, which include both marijuana and hemp, wrote Phumi Ramalepe for Business Insider on 13 April 2021.

The department of agriculture, land reform and rural development proposes to relax restrictions, including by changing legislation. It wants to establish a globally competitive cannabis industry, produce more cannabis for local and export purposes and increase investment in research in the industry.

The South African cannabis industry – which has largely operated underground – is considered to be worth billions.

According to one estimate the industry could be worth R27 billion by 2023. It is calculated that there are more than 900,000 small-scale farmers in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces who have been cultivating dagga for years.

The Business Insider story continues:

According to the master plan, government plans these interventions;

  • The amendment of existing legislation by removing existing constraints that hinder commercialisation.
  • The implementation of breeding programmes for new dagga and hemp cultivars.
  • Supporting research and development programmes for the cannabis industry.
  • Mobilising and supporting farmers to participate in the cannabis value chains.
  • Developing new domestic and export markets for the South African cannabis industry.
  • Including indigenous dagga growers in the value chain.
  • Developing and supporting the growth and development of the manufacturing and product development capacity of the South African cannabis sector.
  • Providing a framework on education and training in support of the cannabis industry.
  • Communicating a clear and unambiguous message about the cannabis industry and related matters to all stakeholders and the public.

Although in 2018 the Constitutional Court ruled that South Africans can smoke the recreational substance in private, there are still strict regulations in place, says Business Insider.

Last year, for instance, government published the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, which stipulates that people who deal in cannabis or sell it to a minor could face 15 years in jail.


Business Insider story – A Lesotho dagga grower just landed Africa’s first approval to sell to the EU (Open access)

Business Insider story – Govt has a new plan to boost SA’s dagga industry (Open access)




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