A Lesotho dagga grower just landed Africa’s first approval to sell to the EU
- A Lesotho-based cannabis cultivator and manufacturer has gained access to the lucrative European market.
- MG Health, which was founded in 2017, now meets the European Union’s good manufacturing practice standards.
- This allows the company to export the medicinal cannabis flower as an active pharmaceutical ingredient to the EU.
- MG Health is the first manufacturer in Africa to attain this EU export certification and hopes to have its first shipment out in June.
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A Lesotho-based cannabis cultivator has been approved as the first manufacturer in Africa to export the medicinal cannabis flower as an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) to the European Union.
MG Health has been certified as meeting the EU's good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards.
Situated outside of Lesotho’s capital Maseru, in the mountainous region near Mohale Dam at 2,000 metres above sea level, MG Health operates a cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility.
The 5,000 sqm greenhouse, fitted with internal climate, temperature, humidity and lighting controls, houses plants which are dried and trimmed to produce 250kg of medical-grade cannabis flower every month. MG Health’s master plan is to increase this output to 100 tons of cannabis flower per year using a cultivation area of 160,000 sqm.
It’s an optimistic outlook for a company that was only established in 2017, but one which has been supported by Lesotho’s progressive cannabis cultivation laws. The Mountain Kingdom was one of the first countries in southern Africa to legalise the cultivation and use of medical cannabis in 2008.
The recent GMP approval, which was officially granted at the end of March 2021, is expected to turn this cannabis start-up into a profitable industry player by September. The first exports are expected to go directly to Germany which has the highest usage of medicinal cannabis in Europe.
“We’ve followed a process with our partners in Germany in registering an extension to their narcotic licensing to include our products and we need to get the necessary import and export documentation before we can begin our first shipments,” explains Luke van der Nest, MG Health’s business development manager.
Those first shipments to Germany are expected to begin in June and will be supplied to Drapalin Pharmaceuticals, a Munich-based importer and distributor which lodged the request for GMP approval. Once this initial export arrangement with Drapalin Pharmaceuticals is completed – at which point the cannabis company will see a positive cashflow – MG Health will be looking to strike other deals with licensed distributors in key markets across Europe.
“They’re one of the strictest regulators,” says Van Der Nest of Germany and MG Health’s decision to seek GMP approval for the supply of the cannabis flower as an API.
“We wanted to find the most stringent standards and make sure that we adhere to those, to generate that global confidence for patients, prescribing doctors and everyone else along the supply chain.”
And while MG Health is keeping a close eye on developments in South Africa, which has recently formulated a new cannabis master plan to stimulate economic growth, Van Der Nest says the company has no intention of uprooting its operations in Lesotho.
“Lesotho is our home and we’re very happy here,” says Van der Nest.
“We’ve got a great relationship with the regulators here, do a lot for the local community and look to grow the business here. So, at the moment, we’re fully focused on Lesotho. We obviously watch South Africa very closely and we hope to see regulations, in terms of medical prescriptions, ease so we can start to service patients throughout the continent.”
MG Health believes its cannabis flower – which is also processed into extracts and oils – is of superior quality, which it says is due to the altitude at which it is grown, and the nutrient-rich water obtained from the nearby Senqunyane River.
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