With demand, deregulation, ‘opportunities abound’ for hemp

CNS Canada — Aggressive contracting in the hemp sector is expected to bump up Canadian acres — another benefit for growers who will experience less red tape this year.

“We’ve seen a lot of activity on the contracting side for growers,” said Kim Shukla, executive director of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance at Steinbach, Man.

Aggressive contracting for both organic and conventional hemp is likely to contribute to significant growth on the year, she said.

Based on contracts that have been assigned, hemp area in 2017 is expected to be in excess of 100,000 acres — well above what was grown the previous year.

That strong contracting comes after a surprise increase in demand from the Korean marketplace last year.

Demand for Canadian hemp blew up in the previously unknown market of South Korea after a home shopping channel advertised the product. South Korea accounted for about a third of sales last year, Shukla said.

Demand from that market has steadied, but remains strong, she said, though that activity is expected to spur demand from other South Asian countries.

On top of the strong demand, the industry has made regulatory headway with Health Canada.

“That has loosened up a little bit. We still have to go through all the necessary steps, but we’ve been given some more latitude,” Shukla said.

That freedom includes a one-year interim exemption for farmers applying for permits. They now don’t have to specify in advance the GPS co-ordinates at which they will grow their hemp crops.

Farmers are now able to make that decision in the spring, and notify officials at that time, Shukla said.

Those changes meet about half of what the CHTA is looking for, she said, but there will be continued shifts due to anticipated government changes in the marijuana industry.

“It’s going to be another crazy year for us, it’s great. The opportunities abound.”

— Jade Markus writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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