The Herald Online **Business**
THE Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is piloting a multi-billion-rand agri-business project that could encourage Eastern Cape farmers to grow hemp and flax for the textile industry.
The project is aimed at boosting economic activity. Hemp and flax are used for various purposes, including textiles and food.
“Growing and processing flax and hemp will provide a new industry that is viable and has the potential to be worth billions, if farmers get the required interventions in terms of government subsidies,” [CSIR fibres and textile manager Abisha Tembo] said.
Although hemp is illegal in South Africa as it is a member of the cannabis sativa family, various organisations, including the CSIR and the Agriculture Research Council, are lobbying government to change the legislation.
CSIR natural plant fibre centre manager Sunshine Blouw said: “The advantage of the two plants is that flax is grown in winter and hemp in summer. Farmers can grow both in different seasons without having to acquire different technologies for production and processing as both plants use the same technology.”
“In 2004, South Africa imported R100-million worth of flax and R75-million worth of hemp. It would not make business sense to import if you can buy locally.”
The United States and South Africa are still holding back their farmers from growing this lucrative crop, while the rest of the industrialized world is more than happy to supply us with their overpriced hemp exports. Hemp, of course, doesn’t look at all like consumer cannabis, is not at all smokable and could never get you high, but because it is in the same plant family as the one that does get you high, our government bans it. Even though hemp is not a drug, it is eradicated by our Drug Enforcement Administration and prohibited as a Schedule I drug.
Considering the myriad uses of hemp, not the least of which would help us end oil addiction and feed the hungry, it is not just ridiculous that non-drug hemp is prohibited; it’s a crime against humanity.