Farmers learn how to cash in on growing cannabis for medicinal use
Norfolk farmers are learning how they can benefit from growing cannabis – more lucrative per gram than strawberries.
Property giant Savills, better known for selling high-end homes, has teamed up with cannabis specialists to launch a business venture for UK growers.
A new joint project called Crop17 will help farmers with knowing the best land for the crop, sourcing equipment and navigating the legal minefield of the Class B drug.
Although cannabis is illegal in Britain, several countries and states across the world have legalised it, leading to a boom in exports from the UK.
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Alex Bragg, a director at Savills, said: "The UK agriculture sector is embarking upon a period of unprecedented change. A phasing out of subsidies, a new dawn for trade, adapting to meet climate change targets and a huge growth in agtech presents the industry with huge challenges and opportunities. For the forward-thinking and innovative farmer and grower adapting into new markets is a key priority."
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Kit Papworth, director of farm contracting business LF Papworth, based at Felmingham, near North Walsham, has been invited to attend a Savills conference in London on hemp cultivation in the UK. He said: "The hemp and CBD (Cannabidol) oil markets have a huge potential, for both the oil and the biomass produced by the plant, which can be used in industry, building materials and for sequestering carbon.
"Farming in a post-Brexit world means we have to look closely at all of the opportunities and this is just one of many that we are considering."
The worldwide legal cannabis industry generated revenues in the region of £11.5bn in 2019 - expected to grow to around £35bn by 2024. The total number of medical cannabis prescriptions issued in the UK could surge from a few hundred to more than 185,000 by the end of 2023 if the country follows a similar path to Australia, whose medical cannabis programme has grown rapidly since the government relaxed restrictions in 2018.
The active ingredient in cannabis - Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - is illegal in the UK but Cannabidiol (CBD) is not. However, all CBD products sold in the UK have to be imported typically from the US, Canada and Columbia.