Four of the eighty-nine companies who have been issued licenses to grow medicinal and industrial hemp in the country have rolled out the exercise, and the Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA) has said it expects the number to heighten as the rainy season begins.
CRA director general, Ketulo Salipira, said the numbers were few because a majority of those that have been licensed are hoping to depend on rain-fed while others are still setting up their irrigation facilities.
According to CRA, the four companies currently growing the crop are Mchinji Cannabis Cooperatives, Invegrow Limited, CPG Investments and Women of Vision.
"The licenses have one year lifespan subject to renewal and we expect that within the period, the licensees will have produced the crop as planned.
"The industry is a complicated one and new in this country, we are just setting it up. However, we expect those who have already started producing like Invegrow, they will start exporting between January and February next year when the economy will start benefiting from the industry," Salipira said.
CRA licensed 48 firms for medicinal cannabis and 35 firms for industrial hemp production while six were licensed for research purposes on the crop varieties.
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) chief executive officer, Jacob Nyirongo, said cannabis has emerged as an alternative crop to tobacco, but said there is need for government commitment to ensure that the value chain takes an inclusive process.
"It's a new crop and there are challenges. The conditions that farmers are supposed to meet in order to grow the crop are quite difficult to meet.
"It requires public investment in terms of extension services, training, advisory services and financing, without this, we will see farmers being excluded," Nyirongo is quoted as saying in the press.
License fees to cultivate and sell as well as the license to process is pegged at $10 000 (about K7.4 million) for medicinal cannabis and license fees to cultivate and sell industrial hemp is at $2 000 (about K1.4 million).
On the other hand, a license to process industrial hemp is pegged at $5 000 (about K3.7 million).
Other requirements include that farmers should present a business plan to the CRA and should have readily identified markets upon application for production.
Invegrow director, Nebert Nyirenda, said the they have started hemp cultivation under greenhouses to produce flowers for extracts or premium grade flowers for export.
He said their greenhouses occupy nearly 10 000 square meter of space and the factory space of nearly 1 200 square meters which is already completed and connected to 3 phase power and that processing equipment is being procured.
An economic expert, Milward Tobias, has since tipped licensed companies and cooperatives to swiftly work on developing irrigation facilities as cannabis has potential to boost country's revenue base.