Malawi Promotes Cannabis As Tobacco Consumption Declines

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera says that as tobacco consumption continues to decline, the country must switch to cannabis.

According to Chakwera, Malawi’s top foreign exchange earner, tobacco, is in terminal decline.

Making the Switch to Cannabis

Malawi has encouraged a conversion to high-growth commodities like cannabis, which was legalized locally for some uses last year.

Chakwera made remarks at a state of the country address in which he predicted that tobacco will earn less than $200 million in 2021.

The sum is roughly comparable to the previous two years but significantly lower than the prior annual revenue of $350 million.

On Wednesday, the government of neighboring country Zimbabwe altered its legislation to attract cannabis investment.

“While Malawi has come a long way by relying on tobacco as our…biggest single crop contributor to our GDP,” Chakwera stated. “This reliance is now critically threatened by diminishing demand worldwide.”

“Clearly, we need to diversify and produce other crops, such as cannabis, which was authorized for industrial and therapeutic use last year,” Chakwera said.

Tobacco Continues to Decline

Tobacco was a blemish on an otherwise thriving agricultural industry, which the president predicted would boost economic growth to 3.8 percent this year and 5.4 percent next year, according to the latest predictions.

In comparison, the previous year’s 1.9 percent growth was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic’s aftermath.

Decades of public health education have progressively persuaded people all around the world of the dangers of smoking, resulting in a steady decline in sales. At the same time, cannabis is becoming more widely regarded as a medical treatment.

Malawi’s parliament passed a bill in February of last year that legalizes the cultivation and processing of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and hemp fiber for industrial purposes, but does not decriminalize recreational use.

According to Chakwera, the agriculture ministry would “look for a basket of other crops so that Malawi can wean itself off tobacco by 2030.”

Several countries in southern Africa, including Zambia, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe, are either legalizing or modifying their cannabis regulations.

Zimbabwe’s new legislation will allow investors to own 100% of cannabis firms, rather than having to cooperate with the government. It would also allow cannabis to be grown anywhere throughout Zimbabwe, rather than just in designated areas.

According to a government statement, investors can keep export proceeds in US dollars for up to four years.