Rwanda has dedicated 134 hectares to cannabis production, The New Times has learned.
It was last year when the country publicly showcased its plans to start growing and exporting the plant and its products.
To the effect of this, a Ministerial Order was gazetted in June, providing a framework for responsible and secure cultivation, processing, distribution and use of cannabis in the country.
Now, a few months since then, a number of steps have been taken towards starting the operations, among which, according to information availed to The New Times by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the government has designated a specific area of 134ha to cannabis production “and is in the process of having this site developed.”
In addition, RDB disclosed that a significant number of companies have shown interest in the cultivation, processing and export of cannabis from Rwanda.
“RDB has been working with other government stakeholders to assess proposals received. The government of Rwanda set a rigorous process to select companies that have or are partnering with companies that have previous experience in the production of cannabis for medical and therapeutic reasons. The assessment process has different stages. So far 5 companies are in the advanced stage,” read a statement from RDB.
However, no licenses have been issued yet, as the licensing process is an extensive one that requires alignment with the security requirements and infrastructure of the site.
Claire Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of RDB told the media last year about what security measures will be put in place during the process of producing the crop.
“If you get licensed to grow these therapeutic crops in Rwanda, you will be required to have in place a very strong security program that has to be approved by our security organs, and that security program is going to be highly implemented,” she said.
“There will be no way that it (cannabis) can leak out of the farm to go to the domestic market or to the wrong users. The crops will be in a very designated place, there will be very strong measures, whether it is CCTV cameras, watch towers, street lights, and human security. So it is going to be extremely secure,” she added.
Cannabis produced in Rwanda will be exclusively for export purposes. Here, the biggest markets that are being looked at are the United States of America, Canada and Europe.
During the same interview, Akamanzi insisted that the main reason for the country’s move to start producing therapeutic crops is to contribute to health and medicinal research around the world and improve the lives of people.
However, she also highlighted that there is great economic benefit to Rwanda since such crops are highly profitable. Here, she said a hectare of these crops can bring in up to USD 10 million, an amount that is way higher than the USD 300,000 that can come out of a hectare of flowers.
The companies that have so far applied for production licenses, according to RDB, have been from a broad range of geographies, including consortiums with local companies as well.
It is not yet clear when the farming activities will start, but RDB told this newspaper that they will get underway as soon as the required infrastructure is in place.
In its regulatory work, RDB will be working alongside several government institutions including the Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority, the Rwanda Food and Drug Authority and the Rwanda National Police to ensure firm implementation of safety guidelines during the production of cannabis.
The consumption of Cannabis products for recreational purposes remains illegal in Rwanda. The country maintains harsh penalties for illegal production, distribution and consumption of cannabis.
The law governing narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors, imposes fines of between Rwf500,000 and Rwf5 million and prison terms of between three to five years for anyone found illegally using marijuana.