Cornerways to switch from tomatoes to pharmaceutical cannabis

British Sugar has announced it will switch its Norfolk glasshouse horticultural business from tomatoes to a medicinal crop from next year.

Image: Martijn (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image: Martijn (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The specially bred non-psychoactive variety of cannabis yields the compound cannabidiol, which will be used in a new prescription medicine, Epidiolex, being developed by GW Pharmaceuticals to treat rare but serious forms of epilepsy in children known as Dravet syndrome.

Production of tomatoes at the site to be phased out from November, before the new crop goes into production next year. The company has said will meet its existing tomato supply commitments.

British Sugar managing director Paul Kenward said: "Sixteen years ago we realised we could use some of the heat and waste carbon dioxide generated in our Wissington sugar factory to develop a horticultural business. During this time, we have invested in our world-class facilities and developed our expertise to deliver consistent, high quality crops season after season.

"This new era for our horticultural business uses all we have learned to date to further build this value stream for British Sugar and to benefit the pharmaceutical industry. Annually, we will produce enough of this ingredient to treat the equivalent of up to 40,000 children globally."

For the past year, Cornerways' tomatoes have been marketed by Kent-based Thanet Earth, but this arrangement has now terminated.

Thanet Earth said in a statement: "It has been a pleasure to work with the team at Cornerways this year, and we have enjoyed a very successful season of tomato production from their facility, and we wish them every success with this new opportunity.

"Should British Sugar revert to tomato production in the future, Thanet Earth remains the marketing partner and would resume the responsibility for crop planning and marketing once more."

Thanet Earth has recently extended its cucumber production with the addition of a fifth glasshouse.

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