Hemp market idles along
Farmers Forum explores the state of the hemp nation
By Rowan Lomas
Eastern Ontario Farmers Forum
The year was 1998, the Canadian government had just announced the end of a 40-year ban on growing industrial hemp, and the industry was fairly frothing at the mouth in anticipation of hemp use expanding from just food and clothing into the automotive, plastics, pulp and paper, biofuel and insulation industries.
Canadian farmers planted about 30,000 acres of hemp in 1999, and 13,500 the following year. Now, five years later, the bales from those bumper crops sit in farmers’ barns, idle like the industry itself, which is still primarily driven by the hempseed, not the fibre. In recent years, more conservative acreage has been planted. This year saw 6,750 acres of hemp planted, 90 per cent for seed. Only 200 acres were planted in Ontario.
Here is Arthur Hanks
' letter to the editor in reply to the story above:
Eastern Ontario Farmers Forum
To the Editor,
It was with great interest that I read your recent article on Ontario Hemp Alliance's Field Day "Hemp Update July 23, 2004
". It was a solid piece that did an accurate job of where the Canadian hemp industry has been and where it might be going. I'd just like to address a few points for your readers' benefit.
"Farmers are now only encouraged to grow if they have such a contract.
This has been a standard business practise since oversupply scenarios of the early years, when there were very few buyers and extremely underdeveloped consumer markets. Since 1999-2000 we have seen the establishment of a domestic hemp food industry and a growing consumer base. Hemp does not have a marketing board of course, but any specialty crop can experience wild fluctuations from year to year, as parallel examples of Echinacea and ginseng have taught us all. Now for the past few years, the good news is that hemp farmers have enjoyed strong price stability: certified organic producers have enjoyed an average price of 85 cents a pound (clean) at the farmgate.
Because of steadily growing demand, there is currently a shortage of certified organic grain on the market, so it likely this fall's crop will remain a seller's market. Hemp remains an excellent opportunity for some farmers.
"Recent U.S. court decisions, musings at the federal and provincial levels of government, and in the automobile and paper industries lead insiders to be optimistic, but cautiously so.
Certainly. The US market remains very important for Canadian companies, and confused US government practices and ill-conceived regulations in the past have done us no favours (do see www.votehemp.com
for more information on the latest, favourable court rulings). Meanwhile, the Canadian and various provincial governments do indeed remain supportive of hemp; their aid has been most welcome in important research and marketing programs
As for industrial fibre, it is a very complex issue, but I'd like to mention that research on applications such as paper, biocomposites and building materials are underway in at least 4 provinces. Led by Ontario, the Canadian research community is now conducting more hemp fibre research than at any point in the past. With a growing science and technology base mustering behind them, the single biggest challenge facing potential hemp fibre processors is accessing capital markets, which remain very cautious about investing in the agricultural sector in general.
The Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance was formed in 2003: we are a non-profit national group of hemp processors, marketers, farmers and information specialists.
Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance