This latest positive development for the Lesotho based cannabis company, follows shortly after the news of its multi-million rand merger with local cannabis lifestyle company GoodLeaf
By Edward Tsumele,
After its recent multi-million merger with Cape Town, based South African cannabis lifestyle brand GoodLeaf, to form Africa’s largest vertically integrated cannabis company, Lesotho based cannabis grower Highlands Investments has just achieved another feat. The company has been awarded the much sought-after standard certification. This is the highest standard of certification in this emerging business, placing the cannabis grower on an internationally competitive edge in this emerging lucrative new industry.
Specialising in the medical cannabis sector for its overseas export market, mainly exporting cannabis to Canada to produce medical products, this latest development means that the company stands a chance of gaining more markets, especially in European countries such as Germany where the standard requirements for quality cannabis are stringent.
The South African cannabis industry meanwhile is poised to take the market by storm once the regulatory framework has been ironed out and clarity the industry, especially when it comes to regulations has been finalized. Currently a National Cannabis Master Plan, which is being co-ordinated by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, has been developed and is a subject of negotiations at Nedlac. Nedlac has confirmed receiving the document at the end of May, but is yet to announce when the negotiations will be finalized with stakeholders. These stakeholders include other departments of government, departments of Justice and Police as well as the cannabis industry.
However he slow pace of legal reforms that would see an expected boon in this new industry, creating jobs and wealth for South Africans and international investors, as regulations will be in place for growing, manufacturing and trading in cannabis products, is making local role players livid.
Cannabis Business Africa/CBA, understands that the cannabis Traders Association Africa (CTAA), an association of cannabis companies ibased in South Africa, is currently directly lobbying President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene and expedite the process of legalizing the cannabis industry, currently spearheaded by the department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in conjunction with the other relevant government departments. However cannabis entrepreneurs seem to be growing impatient by what they say is a slow pace of the process of legalisation.
The Department of Agriculture is expected however, to dish out the first hemp licenses in October 2021.
ISO 22000 is a global Safety Management System; the certification shows that Highlands has a certified product safety management system in place.
“To be recognised as a world-class producer of certified cannabis, you need to demonstrate that your cultivation and production processes meet the highest quality standards,” says Mark Corbett – Managing Director, Highlands Investments.
“With ISO 22000 certification, Highlands is leading the way, not just for Africa, but globally in terms of its commitment to safety and quality management in the cannabis sector. This is exciting news for the African cannabis industry, and ultimately for our most important stakeholders, the consumers of the end-cannabis product, wherever in the world they may be,” Corbett says.
ISO 22000 a globally recognised food safety standard
Highlands embarked on ISO 22000 certification in 2020. Set by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), and checked by an official and authorised agency, ISO 22000 creates a single product safety standard that harmonises the various national standards into one easy-to-understand set of requirements, that are simple to apply and recognised around the world.
ISO 22000 maps out what an organisation needs to do to ensure that the product it produces is safe. It covers all the processes in the value chain that impact the safety of the end product including the management of systems, personnel, internal and external communication and hygiene principles.
As part of the ISO 22000 certification process, Highlands went through a series of audits; the second audit took place at Kolojane at the end of May 2021. Following this physical audit, all findings have been closed off and the final certification issued.
Meeting the stringent requirements of our customers
“As a business we have worked hard to anticipate requirements; not only of regulators, but also of partners, retailers, suppliers and investors and consumers. We want to ensure that anyone, anywhere that engages with Highlands or our product is assured of our quality standards,” Corbett says. “This has become even more important during the Covid-19 pandemic, as there has been limited opportunity to invite stakeholders to visit the Highlands facility in person for them to be assured of our quality processes and procedures.”
The standard specifies the requirements for a comprehensive management system, as well as incorporating the elements of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). The standard can be used by all organisations in the supply chain from farming, processing, transportation and storage to packaging and retail.
“While we have always been committed to excellent standards, with the ISO 22000 we can ensure that there is no room for error, and easily communicate this commitment to everyone we engage with,” concludes Corbett.
High quality cannabis for medical cannabis products
The company has becoming a leading grower of good quality cannabis in the southern African region ever since it was licensed in Lesotho to grow medical cannabis for the export market.
In April 2020, Highlands Investments harvested and processed 4 tonnes of high quality cannabis flower. The cannabis was dried, packaged and is being transported to companies around the world where it will be processed into medical cannabis products.
In November 2020, the company planted 5 hectares of Cherry Wine CBD and 6 hectares of high THC from a variety of strains. In April 2021, the company harvest in excess of 10 tonnes of cannabis for sale across international markets.