46 of 2023

Newsletter No 46/24 November 2023                              


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Hemp has a distinct edge over its industrial rivals

by Kevin Tutani

Cannabis plants growing in controlled conditions. Picture: 123RF

SA is one of just 11 African nations to have legalised the plant for research and industrial purposes, but the country lags far behind in turning that to broad economic benefit

Hemp isn’t intoxicating. Unlike strains of cannabis such as sativa or indica, it is virtually impossible to get a “high” from consuming it, in whatever form, since it contains only minuscule amounts tetrahydrocannabinol. As such, the plant is cultivated in a number of countries for an array of economic benefits.

In SA, the cultivation  of hemp for research and industrial purposes was legalised in October 2021, making the country one of only 11 African nations to take that stance.

While most countries that farm the crop are in the northern hemisphere, the plant is more suited to the tropical and subtropical climate of Sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the main reasons for the cultivation of hemp around the world is the harvesting of textile-grade fibres. The outer part of hemp’s stems can be used to make textiles. These can be processed further for the manufacture of rope, clothing, shoes and the interior upholstery of vehicles.

The benefits of hemp over cotton show the need for local cotton farmers to evaluate which of the two is more viable in the local setting. As SA is a net cotton importer, the introduction of hemp for textiles could turn the tide and result in net exports of plant textile fibres.

Some of the advantages of hemp over cotton are:

  • It grows faster. Hemp can be harvested in 12 weeks, half the time it takes for cotton to reach maturity.
  • On an equal area of land a farmer will harvest twice as much fibre from hemp as from cotton. It therefore makes more efficient use of land.
  • Hemp needs 2,100l of water for a kilogram of fibre-grade textiles — about about a quarter of cotton’s water requirement.
  • Hemp is a carbon negative plant. A hectare of industrial hemp can absorb as much as 22 tonnes of CO2. It therefore offers one of the fastest methods of converting carbon dioxide into biomass.
  • Unlike cotton, hemp rarely needs pesticides or herbicides. Its dense canopy and bitter nature keep weeds and pests under control.
  • It is possible to replant hemp for several consecutive years, without degrading soil quality or reducing the yield.
  • Textiles made from hemp are more durable than cotton fabric, encourage better aeration and are easier to process (dye).

Competitive edge

Almost all components of the hemp plant can be used or processed for a variety of purposes. That gives it an edge over most key crops. Hemp seeds are highly nutritious, comprising 20%-25% protein, 25%-35% fats and 10%-15% fibre, plus several vitamins and minerals. Hemp seed is in demand in advanced economies, with consumers using them in baked bread, cereal, salads and protein-shakes, so there is a ready export market.

The whole hemp plant can also be fermented to produce ethanol, which can be used as motor vehicle fuel. Ethanol is also suitable for power stations, which can generate electricity to the national grid. Moreover, hemp can be used to manufacture biodiesel. In this regard, if the government promoted the cultivation of the plant mandatory fuel blending for diesel engines could be introduced, with local hemp serving as the source of biodiesel.

Such policies would have a direct impact on local employment and stimulate economic growth, as they lead to the development of new local industries and supply chains.

Hemp fibres can also be used to produce cheaper and more environmentally friendly vehicle batteries. A  study by David Mitlin of Clarkson University in New York compared hemp batteries to graphene ones, and concluded that the plant is similar to graphene in terms of energy storage and weight.

In addition, the research outlined that hemp batteries would be cheaper to manufacture. Further advances in research into hemp’s energy storage capabilities may lead to breakthroughs such as the replacement of lithium batteries in electric vehicles.

Hemp can be used to make 100% biodegradable plastics, unlike those manufactured from oil, coal and natural gas. Such biodegradable plastics become part of the natural environment after only a few months. Hemp plastics don’t contain toxins that could be harmful if the products are used for serving food, or when they are burnt and the smoke is inhaled.

Plastics made from the plant can also be far stronger than conventional containers. Due to their resilient nature, as far back as 1941 car maker Henry Ford manufactured a vehicle incorporating hemp plastics in an attempt to create a light, fast and fuel-efficient car.

Green plastics

More recently Bruce Dietzien, founder of DrawdownHemp and Renew Sports Cars, made a vehicle using 100% hemp plastics in 2016. The body of the vehicle was reportedly 10 times stronger than steel and dent resistant. Several prominent commercial vehicle manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Peugeot, BMW, Volvo and Volkswagen, use hemp plastics for a number of components such as dashboards, windscreens and arm rests.

The plant is also used in the manufacture of a number of medicines such as analgesics (painkillers), antidepressants, sleeping medication and anticonvulsion drugs. There are plenty of other applications too, including animal feed, building materials, paints, cosmetics and paper.

The growth of industrial hemp in SA is hamstrung by a few issues, which if resolved could result in significant growth. Rural and township farmers need to be incorporated into the sector by providing them with accessible permits. Hemp should be cultivated outdoors and indoors so that it can truly be a commercial crop.

At present SA’s industrial hemp is strictly cultivated indoors, in greenhouses, which limits the number of entrants into the sector. Supportive government policy such as using hemp products in government building projects and for uniforms used by staff and students in public institutions, could be crucial for growth.

Awareness campaigns, agricultural extension services and quick processing of permit applications would help provide sustainable growth for the sector.    

• Tutani is a political economy analyst.

Mr Price’s interim profit and volumes fall as consumers struggle

By Nico Gous

Picture: Supplied

The fashion retailer is the latest company to flag issues at local harbours

Fashion retailer Mr Price sold lower volumes on a comparable basis in its latest interim results and reported a fall in profit as consumers grappled with high inflation and interest rate hikes leading to less disposable income.

The company, valued at about R38.1bn on the JSE, said on Thursday in its results for the 26 weeks to the end-September that it expects this trend to continue in 2024 as “the recovery in employment has lagged economic activity and real wage growth has been negative” and believes the interest rate cycle with improve in the middle of 2024.

The group’s total revenue rose 26.4% to R16.8bn, driven by the acquisition of Studio 88, but only 3.5%, when excluding Studio 88, to R13.7bn, and decreased 0.8% at comparable stores.

But its internal selling price inflation was up 19.1% including Studio 88 and 5.4% without it, meaning that Mr Price effectively sold lower volumes.

More inventory for Mr Price, founded in 1985, meant selling more items at discount to clear excess stock, affecting the group’s gross profit margins, which came in 1.7 percentage points lower at 38.6%.

Profit declined 9.8% to R1.2bn, headline earnings per share (HEPS), a common profit measure in SA that excludes certain items, 9.3% to 449.9c and the interim dividend 9.3% 283.5c per share.

Many companies have recently complained about issues at local ports, and Mr Price added its voice, saying that it is becoming an “increasing risk” and that it will take the “necessary steps to minimise this impact”, but it believes it has sufficient stock for the upcoming festive season.

Business Day reported earlier in November that delays in Durban port forced retailers to fly clothing and shoes into SA at a high cost, damaging SA’s reputation as a reliable trading partner and potentially jeopardising its competitiveness in the global economy.

To try to offset the effect of load-shedding, the group spent  R140m on backup power solutions and now has 100% coverage across its stores, though it still suffered an estimated loss of 60,000 trading hours — almost seven calendar years — and R190m in revenue.

The group now has 2,809 stores after adding 121 new ones in the reporting period.   

G-Star RAW and (di)vision collaborate on an upcycled limited edition collection

G-Star RAW and (di)vision announce their upcycling collaboration with 96 reconstructed, limited-edition pieces. 90’s and 00’s styles from the G-Star Archive are given a new lease of life through Copenhagen-based brand (di)vision. Alongside this, both brands bring the original G-Star Elwood back, with the custom ’96 and (di)vision logo featured on every pair.

This collaboration is all about coming full circle. With the birth year of the G-Star Elwood and the birth year of (di)vision’s co-founder and Creative Director Simon Wick, the number 1996 holds a special place within both brands.

The capsule collection 

(di)vision, whose motto is ‘creating from what already is’, does exactly that with G-Star’s existing Archive. Menswear and womenswear styles are transformed into a unisex collection of all handmade one-offs. The unique designs complete the limited-edition edit including cropped jackets, cargo pants, denim jeans, tops and a range of accessories. Remaining true to both the history of G-Star and (di)vision’s design vision, it draws inspiration from the Y2K-era of G-Star, while incorporating current styles, trends and playful elements that run true to (di)vision.

G-Star Elwood limited-edition  

In addition, 96 pairs of the iconic G-Star Elwood jeans, will be exclusively released. This time featuring the original ’96 logo embroidery on the back pocket alongside the (di)vision logo. The loose style offers a hint of nostalgia with a contemporary feel.

Co-founders of (di)vision and siblings, Nanna and Simon Wick explore possibilities of producing clothing made from deadstock, recycled fabrics, vintage goods and upcycling archive stock. The Danish duo offer a unique approach to creating clothes with their brand ethos of ‘creating from what already is’.

“For us, the project made a lot of sense because of G-Star’s sustainability within the fashion industry. They work with more innovative processes like responsible dyes for denim and organic fibers. That’s important for us in collaborations, really knowing that the company we’re working with cares about that as well.” – Simon Wick, co-owner (di)vision

“G-Star have always worked with young talents, it’s important to us as we love to platform creativity. Supporting sustainable initiatives is also core to our brand DNA, so it’s exciting to work together with a fashion label whose whole ethos is around creating from what already exists.” Gwenda Van Vliet, Chief Marketing Officer of G-Star RAW

The talents of today

The G-Star RAW x (di)vision campaign was shot in Copenhagen on Simon’s close network of friends. Showcasing the rich Danish creative community, models, artists and alike, sit on top of G-Star’s iconic G-NO rhino mascot, created with CGI.

The G-Star x (di)vision capsule collection launches on the 16th November 2023 exclusivily at the recently opened concept store ESSX, 140 Essex Street, New York.

The G-Star x (di)vision Elwood jeans are available on the 16th November at G-Star.com and di-vsn.com. Price: 199,95 Euro / 215,95 USD.

Fashion, Lifestyle, Trends

Woolies – appointment of finance director

Mr Zaid Manjra has been appointed as the WHL Group finance director and as an executive director of the W HL board, effective 1 December 2023. He will also be appointed as a member of the. WHL Treasury Committee and the Risk, Information and Technology Committee with effect from 1 December 2023.

Nowadays, kimonos are worn only in very formal occasions in Japan except by sumo wrestlers, who are required to wear traditional Japanese clothes when in public


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