Malawi’s new regulatory agency for the cultivation, processing and sale of medical cannabis and industrial hemp has said the country is ready to launch commercial production of the crop, the Reuters news agency reported last week.

Malawi’s agriculture ministry said the licensing fees for the cultivation, sale, storage, and distribution of industrial hemp or medicinal cannabis will range from $100 to $10,000 per year, Reuters reported, citing the minister’s gazette dated Nov. 20.

Boniface Kadzamira, the board chair of the country’s Cannabis Regulatory Authority, told Reuters the body had received more than 100 applications for licensing.

“Our view as regulator is that if we get honest investors, the hemp industry can supplement export revenues from tobacco, and in some cases, surpass it,” Kadzamira said.

“But it will not immediately replace tobacco,” he added.

According to the Reuters report, declining demand and poor weather have contributed to a dramatic decline in Malawi’s earnings from tobacco over the years: During the 2020 season, Malawi’s tobacco output fell by 31.3%, resulting in a 26.4% decline in the country’s overall tobacco revenues.

Lawmakers in the landlocked southeastern African country passed a bill decriminalising cannabis for medicinal and industrial uses in February.