In February 2020, Malawi’s National Assembly legalized the cultivation and processing of Medicinal Cannabis and Industrial Hemp but did not decriminalize recreational use in the country.
InteGrow Capital Group (ICG) is one of the companies that saw the opportunity to grow, process and export Medicinal Cannabis and Industrial Hemp products and make it the biggest forex earner for the Malawi’s agro-based economy which has been heavily dependent on tobacco for many years. The challenges in the tobacco industry on the global market has left many Malawian farmers in a state of financial crisis. We at the Maravipost took the opportunity to have a sit down with the CEO for ICG to gain more insight into the industry and it’s potential to replace tobacco as Malawi’s top export earner.
Elwin: Robert, please give us a brief background into the MalawiGold Project that is being promoted by InteGrow Capital Group.
Robert: The MalawiGold Farms initiative is a project being promoted by InteGrow Capital Group (ICG), a duly registered company under the laws of the Republic of Malawi. This particular initiative is a full vertically integrated Medicinal Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Project. InteGrow Capital is among the first few companies to be awarded licenses and endorsements by the Cannabis Regulatory Authority in the following areas within the industry:
- Medicinal Cannabis
- Cultivation and Sell of Medicinal Cannabis
- Processing of Medicinal Cannabis
- Industrial Hemp
- Cultivation and Sell of Industrial Hemp
- Processing and Sell of Industrial Hemp
Having these licenses enables us to be involved from the production of seeds, cultivation, value addition all the way to customer fulfillment. We are committed to delivering the best pure and organic products on the market. Primarily our target market is going to be the export market. At ICG, we strongly believe that value addition is going to be a very important piece of the equation if Malawi is going to benefit from the industry.
Elwin: Why did InteGrow Capital Group (ICG) jump into the industry?
Robert: ICG is an investment company. We are opportunistic yet responsible in approach. We purposefully created this project as an investment vehicle that will help us achieve the following:
- Positive Social Economic Impact. This project will directly or indirectly impact the communities by providing quality jobs that will result in a win-win relationship between the community and the stakeholders. We are committed to uplift the communities where we serve and operate. It is a smart business decision, and it is at the core of everything we are planning to do. Most of the profits will be reinvested in the community.
- Provide opportunity for Investors who have interest to participate in a fully integrated business opportunity in one of the fastest growing industry of our time. By the end of the day, this project will be owned by ICG and Other Equity Investors
Elwin: Where in Malawi are your operations?
Robert: We have strategically earmarked the following areas for our operations:
- Lilongwe Farm – 50 Acres (with option to expand to 100 Acres) of Prime land at Lumbadzi near Kamuzu International Airport dedicated as a Center of Excellence for Greenhouse farming for Medicinal Cannabis
- Kasungu Farm – Over 150 Acres for outdoor farming dedicated for Industrial Hemp
- Mchinji Farm – Over 100 Acres for outdoor farming dedicated for Industrial Hemp
Elwin: You mentioned that your products will be targeting the export market, what kind of customers have you identified?
Robert: We will work with other businesses such as pharmaceuticals to supply them with pure organic active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). We will also work with middle-men and distributors to fulfil their requirements. Initially we will have a range of products from Grade A cannabis flower, distillate oil, Isolate and over time, we will expand to other finished products like capsules, gummy bears, tinctures and pain salves, beauty products to mention a few based on the demands of the market. Let me also take this opportunity to announce future plans that our website, www.malawigold.com will become a full-fledged e-commerce site where the world can buy not only our products, but other suppliers certified products as well who will pay a nominal fee. This also reminds me that the processing and extraction laboratory we are putting up in Lilongwe will have enough capacity to allow us to enter tolling contracts with other farmers thereby creating another stream of income for our shareholders.
Elwin: For perspective, please paint to us the global market demand for Medicinal Cannabis and Industrial Hemp?
Robert: That’s a good question. It is almost unimaginable that Cannabis and Hemp have reached the status we are at right now at a global level. There have been a lot of fighting and the fighting continues within countries. I am particularly very thankful for all the people who worked so hard to lobby for the legislation for legalization to pass in Malawi’s House of National Assembly. Apparently, our country has one of the best climatic conditions and soils for cultivating either Cannabis or Hemp. That said, this is probably going to be one of the most impactful legislation on our economy in this decade if we can produce and maintain the highest global standards.
According to Market Data Forecast, the global Medicinal Cannabis market is predicted at $16 billion for 2021. The market is forecasted to be worth $46 billion by 2026 with a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23% during the forecast period. Recent trends have seen many countries legalizing Cannabis for medicinal cultivation. I believe that this trend will continue as more and more countries become accepting.
On the other hand, global industrial hemp market size for 2020 was $5 billion. The market is forecasted to be worth $15 billion by 2027 translating to a Compounded Annual Growth Rate of 16% from 2020 to 2027. The market is fueled by a growing demand for hemp oil and fibers in the automotive, construction, food and beverage, personal care, paper, and textile industry. I think we will see this trajectory of growth as more R&D for applications is continues to gain traction. As an example, just earlier this month, BMW announced that it will use hemp in vehicle production as part of reducing carbon emissions. Imagine how many trees we are going to save as we transition to produce paper using hemp instead of trees. I could go on and on about the many uses of hemp and cannabis, but maybe that’s for another day.
Elwin: Putting together a Cannabis Business Project is expensive. Where did you get funding for such a major undertaking?
Robert: So far, we have been using funding from InteGrow Capital and of course sweat equity from the project sponsors. The business is now at a good stage where we have started reaching out and discussing with potential individual and institutional equity investors. So far it looks like there is tremendous interest and we have taken commitments from some of the early-bird investors. We have also been approached by several funding institutions that have expressed appetite to fund the transaction through debt. We are continuing to engage in those discussions, but we are very cognizant that it is in our best interest to get more equity investors to participate as we are looking to be more prudent as far as financial gearing for the project is concerned. It is very important to us for the project to have a healthy balance sheet.
Elwin: Why should someone consider investing in this opportunity
Robert: The basic answer should be to make money but there are several reasons that should reinforce the decision to invest:
- Our biggest responsibility is to our shareholders to ensure that we run an efficient profitable operation.
- This is a new crop for us, and we know that the stakes are too high. We are working with a strong cohesive team of consultants with over 50 years of combined in depth experience in the industry producing at global standards. The consultants will work with the local team on the ground to provide technical know-how and knowledge transfer.
- Opportunity to participate in a fully integrated company in one if not the fastest growing industry in the world
- Operating from a low labor cost country while maintaining international standards to maximize profitability/ bottom-line
- Positive social economic impact
- All the licenses and the farmlands are already secure
- Investing in a priority industry that is receiving a lot of Government Support
- Investing in a stable and secure investor friendly country that has never been to war which also enjoys preferential access to markets like the EU, USA and now the Africa Free Trade zone.
- By working with local farmers in cooperatives, we may be able to tap from grants which target supporting the local farmers.
Elwin: Do you have any local investors involved, by that I mean Malawians residing in Malawi?
Robert: Of course, there are a number of local investors residing in Malawi that have made commitment to invest. Being a Malawian owned company, our hope is that we will see increased numbers but of course we are also casting our net wider because there are other investors in diaspora who are also interested to be a part of this exciting journey. It is an exciting time.
Elwin: Where can potential investors that are interested get a prospectus for the business?
WhatsApp(Diaspora): +1 404 831 0797
WhatsApp (Malawi) +265 980300054
Elwin: How do you foresee the industry in terms of generating good returns for the Malawian farmer:
Robert: Like with any other product, the key is for us to be able to produce pure products at the highest grade level in order to have a seat and compete on the global market. In a nutshell, I am just glad and thankful that the farmers of Malawi can officially/ legally participate and benefit from this industry especially at this critical time when our main cash crop tobacco continues to fetch little to nothing on the market. This industry will open tremendous opportunities for people to participate in some form of gainful activities within the sector. When you look at the multiplier effect, this crop is going to positively impact a lot of families.
Elwin: Are you looking for any experts or strategic partners on the project. For example, would you consider contract farming?
Robert: Of course. We are not an Island. We are always interested to talk to other players in the industry and especially like-minded players who can help us achieve our goals. At the core, we are interested in partnerships that can create a win-win situation for all parties involved. The last thing we want to do is enter into bad contracts. As you are aware, bad contracts are very difficult to unwind and can be expensive.
Elwin: I really enjoyed having this conversation and I appreciate the insight shared. Is there anything you would like to add?
Robert: Likewise. I really appreciate you giving me the time and platform to discuss the project as well as provide more insight on the global industry. I think this is an exciting time and probably the best time for anyone to get involved in the industry as it will have tremendous impact on the Malawian economy.
I would like to thank His Excellency President Dr Lazarus Chakwera and the Tonse Alliance Government for the commitment and support they have rendered and continue to provide to the industry. Last but most importantly not least, I would also like to thank the CRA who have been very professional, diligent, helpful, and supportive throughout the process. It is always challenging when you are dealing with a new industry. The CRA is juggling around the clock to define the industry as well as help the players navigate through this new territory.