In contrast to former Minister Patrick Ralotsia’s comments the government through the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security approved the production of cannabis by Fresh Standards Pty LTD in September 2018, it has immerged.
According to a series of written communications between the Ministry and Fresh Standard the former wrote to the latter expressing approval of the company’s request to produce Cannabis.
“The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security has no objection to Fresh Standards Pty LTD registered in Botswana represented Mr Benny De Beer and Mrs Nametso Carr producing Cannabis sativa and Hemp dominant strains for medical and industrial purposes in Botswana,” the letter, signed by Permanent Secretary (PS) Jimmy Opelo reads.
The company’s request for support from the Botswana Police Service was later (September 11,2018) rejected with Solomon Mantswe saying they were unable to support the project as the Botswana Police Service were not responsible for agriculture production nor the regulation of the industry.
A subsequent communication from the Ministry of Agriculture expressed further support to Fresh Standard, expressing the Ministry’s “delight” to inform the company that their proposal for cultivation of Hemp had been embraced by the Ministry.
“We support your proposal in full and welcome initiatives from serious investors like yourself to benefit the Botswana Agricultural Infrastructure,” the Permanent Secretary wrote. The Ministry further pledged to assist “where possible” for access to various available lands through various initiatives and schemes in Botswana.
This is however in contrast to what the recently sacked Minister of Agriculture Ralotsiatold Botswana Gazette in a recent interview.
“When I leased the farm to them (Fresh Standard), they told me they were in horticulture. They said they also would like to do production of industrial Hemp, but in the course of time. I told them that …it should be in order and we do the necessary consultations with all relevant stakeholders because industrial Hemp is somehow associated with marijuana,” Ralotsia told the Botswana Gazette following police raid at his farm.
The former minister seemed to pin the blame on Fresh Standard despite evidence to the contrary.
“I think out of excitement Fresh Standard wanted to experiment with the plant in relation to Botswana’s environment. I did not know they planted it,” he told the publication.
But according to the written communication from his own Ministry, Fresh Standard had long been given the green light.
“We are aware that you are in the process of purchasing land that will be used for this specific project of cultivating industrial hemp. As per your proposal we support the initiative by Fresh Standard that you have a target of planting 10,000 hectares of land with industrial Hemp in the next few years,” a letter from Ralotsia’s then Permanent Secretary reads.
In another communication from the Ministry to Fresh Standard the PS made reference to the Botswana Police letter distancing themselves from the matter. The PS then set conditions for the Ministry’s approval for Cannabis and Hemp production.
The project would be undertaken under conditions and guidelines set by relevant government authorities and by any international protocols recognised as best practice. The company, the Ministry wrote, would take responsibility to manage and control the planting and marketing of the derivative products.
“Approval for use of land for purpose of the above objectives is granted to yourselves through your company Fresh Standard …the company shall conform to the import and export license necessary for both raw materials and finished products for both medicinal and industrial trade.”
The company would be required to produce 1000 hectares, growing to 10,000 hectares over a period of five years upon confirmation that they have successfully managed the first part and have potential to expand.
“This approval is valid under strict monitoring and fulfilment of any requirements under various regulatory conditions form Botswana Police Services, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry, and/or any such institution or body that may have the authority to oversee or monitor the production of Hemp and its trade for the purposes outlined, including the MoA,” the PS wrote. Attempts by Sunday Standard to get a comment from the former Minister proved futile as he referred our enquiries the current authorities. PS Oteng’s phone was off at the time of gong to press.