Organic hemp supply can’t meet demand

Industry experts say organic hemp is a ‘big opportunity’ and commands almost double the price of its conventionally grown cousin

The opportunities are big these days for the growers of organic hemp, says the executive director of Organic Alberta.

“We are seeing very strong growth in the organic sector with 58 per cent of Canadians buying organic on a weekly basis,” said Becky Lipton. “Organic hemp is right up there as one of the top commodities in high demand, and commanding a premium of close to double.”

In 2013, there were 66,000 acres in hemp production in Canada, and that number jumped to 100,000 acres last year — with 40 per cent of production in Alberta. This year, the hemp food manufacturer Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods expects production to remain stable or decline slightly.

“Over the last few years, hemp producers have experienced exceptionally good production,” said Clarence Shwaluk, director of farm operations at Manitoba Harvest. “While we expect overall hemp production could soften just a little, we expect there will be increasing production of organic hemp because of the demand.”

Organic hemp will be one of the topics examined at Organic Alberta’s annual conference in Beaumont on Feb. 27-28.

The conference theme is Sowing Success: Farming for People, Planet, and Profit. Organic hemp seed processors, marketers and researchers will be at the conference to guide both conventional and organic farmers through specialized organic hemp marketing and production sessions.

Shwaluk will discuss the latest market demand for organic hemp, and how farmers can participate.

“Hemp demand is driven by the demand for healthy food and healthy lifestyles,” he said. “There’s a big opportunity for organic hemp as there simply isn’t enough supply to meet the demand.”

In another hemp-focused session, Jan Slaski, senior researcher and program leader at Alberta Innovates–Technology Futures, will explain what farmers need to know about growing organic hemp, including best practices and new research. To register, go to organicalberta.org or call 855-521-2400 toll free.

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