Hemp seen as a timely cash crop

Hemp seen as a timely cash crop

FDA sees wave of applications

After it was removed from the list of controlled substances in January, hemp is now being grown on more than 3,250 rai of land by 324 parties granted permission to do so for commercial purposes as the plant gains traction as a budding cash crop.

Another 127 similar requests are awaiting the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some 34 requests for permission to grow hemp for research purposes have been green-lit while another 11 are pending approval, said Dr Withit Saritdichaikun, deputy secretary-general of the FDA.

A total of 86 parties have been granted permission to import hemp seeds and so far at least 6.1 million seeds, costing 926.8 million baht, have been imported into Thailand from the US, the Netherlands and Denmark.

The FDA now looks set to fully promote growing and producing hemp products from the plant for export. This is expected to play a key role in the country's bid to boost its economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak, he said.

Hemp can be turned into various products including medicines, food, cosmetics and herbal products, he said.

Dr Yongyot Thammawut, director-general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, said hemp joins a number of herbs, including marijuana, that are seen as both plants with medicinal properties and potential cash crops.

Growing these and turning them into products that meet international standards for export are expected to give the economy a welcome boost in the post Covid-19 period, he said.

The value of herbal products produced in Thailand is projected to increase by more than US$1.6 million after Thailand fully reopens, he said.

Also, certain products made from these plants such as herbal drugs will also benefit the country's healthcare system and health tourism sector, he said.

In this fiscal year, the department aims to vastly improve health tourism with the help of new herbal products and will push to include at least two popular herbal drugs in the National List of Essential Medicines, he said.

Doctors will then be able to prescribe these herbal remedies as first-line treatments, he said.

Herbal drugs made with green chiretta are now being given to Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms.

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