Things are going swimmingly at lucrative new locale in Lesotho: Halo Labs

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Halo Labs Inc., a producer of cannabis oils and concentrates, said it expects its first harvest of cannabis in Lesotho, Africa, to be completed ahead of schedule.

The company signed a definitive agreement to buy Bophelo Bioscience in November, giving it access to one of the largest African licences, in terms of land, in Lesotho. In an operational update, the Oregon-based Halo noted that Phase 1 is going well.

“We have started to roll out infrastructure that will enable us to deliver flower and biomass for oil production to international markets by July 1, 2020,” said Andreas Met, the company’s CEO, who is currently in Africa overseeing the project.

“Presently, we are sourcing materials required for the build out and readying the site for the Cravo Greenhouse, including site prep, IT infrastructure and more,” Met said.

“We are building an experienced team to execute on Bophelo and Halo’s plan to export medicinal cannabis from Lesotho.”

Once fully operational, Phase 1 of the build will be able to house three acres of canopy, capacity that will enable the company to grow multiple strains for extraction and export. While the company is still awaiting statutory central bank approval in Lesotho and South Africa to close the Bophelo transaction, Kiran Sidhu, Halo’s CEO and co-founder, said the company is building out operations as quickly as possible.

“We are excited to be finalizing the acquisition of Bophelo,” Sidhu said. “Since initially announcing the partnership in December of 2018, our position has evolved to the anticipated acquisition of the company. The promise that the Kingdom of Lesotho offers in the cannabis industry and appointing Louisa Mojela to Halo Chairman places the company in a strong position for global expansion,” he added.

The way the big cannabis companies see it, Lesotho — with its low-cost labour force, proximity to Europe and ideal climate — is brimming with potential.

For starters, it was the first country in Africa to offer legal licences to grow marijuana for medical purposes. And although poverty-strapped and resource-poor (as of 2016, Lesotho’s GDP was just $2.29 billion), it has a long history of growing cannabis illegally. In fact, a 1999 UNESCO report called Lesotho a “giant of the marijuana trade,” noting that it supplied most of the cannabis to its more populated, richer neighbour, South Africa.

“I don’t think most people know this, but Africa as a continent is the largest producer and consumer of cannabis. If you look at their black market, it just completely dwarfs the size of the global legal market by about 100 times,” said Dallas McMillan, director of strategic growth at Rhizo Sciences, a Seattle-based international medical cannabis company with interests throughout the southern Africa region.

The government of Lesotho, according to multiple investors, including McMillan, is hungry for new streams of legal revenue and, therefore, has had no problem welcoming Canadian cannabis companies and facilitating local partnerships.

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