‘Bigger pie’ seen for hemp as industry evolves

A hemp plant in Alberta. (Jennifer Blair photo)

CNS Canada — Canada’s hemp industry will have an eventful year in 2019 as the industry expands with more processing facilities and legislative changes.

One such legislative change was the legalization of hemp in the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill. The bill passed this week in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and awaits the signature of President Donald Trump, expected before the New Year.

The driving force behind legalizing hemp in the U.S. was the country’s tobacco industry, seeking an alternative crop to grow.

“Canadians will benefit by virtue of there being a bigger pie and we will continue to compete. I’m sure we can with our 20 years of experience,” said Russ Crawford, president of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, adding the new Farm Bill has legitimized hemp around the world.

“As much as we’re looking at another competitor on the production side, we’re looking at a great and massive demand on the consumption side, as a whole product, as a food ingredient and as a processed product,” he continued.

Crawford said Hempco Canada is about to commission its large hemp facility near Leduc, Alta. Other companies are also looking to build food processing and cannabinoid extraction facilities in Canada, he said.

“But we still don’t know what that’s going to look like in terms of contracts with the farmers or how they will harvest and process (hemp). I think we are going to see a more diverse processing industry.”

Another major development in the Canadian hemp industry to come in 2019, Crawford said, will be the recommendation from the Farm Products Council of Canada, which will consider a levy structure for hemp producers.

Crawford wants to see a Canadian Industrial Hemp Promotion and Research Agency created to handle the levies. The deadline for interested parties to appear in front of the FPCC’s two-person committee or to send a submission is Jan. 11.

More research is needed to further develop extraction processes, he said, and to achieve this, more collaboration is needed from hemp processors and university-based researchers.

Besides hemp for human consumption and use, the CHTA president said he wants to see it approved for livestock feed.

“It’s OK right now for companion animals, but not for animals in the food chain,” Crawford explained.

Lower-quality hemp materials, those not ideal for human consumption, should be used for feed rather than left as a waste product, he said. “We’re working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture Canada to get the required approvals in place.”

The most recent data on hemp production in Canada, from Statistics Canada in 2018, shows more than 41,200 acres of hemp grown. The federal agency will begin to collect data on hemp starting next year.

According to Health Canada, hemp contains less than 0.3 per cent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), far too small of amount to produce the high cannabis users seek.

Rather, hemp is used for a wide variety of food and medical products, as well as in fibre for clothing, personal care products and building materials.

— Glen Hallick writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Glacier FarmMedia company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.


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