Hemp crop looking good

Canada’s hemp crop came off in good shape this year, with better-than-average yields for the most part and no serious quality issues reported.

“We’re seeing average to above-average yields,” said Anndrea Hermann of Manitoba-based hemp processor Hemp Oil Canada and vice-president of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance.

On the conventional side, yields were reported at 30 to 40 bushels per acre on dry land, with yields as high as 60 bushels per acre on some irrigated fields. Organic fields were also seeing yields in the 30 bushels per acre area.

From a quality standpoint, Hermann said there were “no complaints yet.” She said sclerotinia was often a problem in hemp, but was not an issue this year.

The wet spring did cause some unseeded fields and planting delays, but did not hamper the crops aside from creating shorter stands and minor yield reductions in those areas affected, said Hermann.

The vast majority of the hemp grown in Western Canada is currently grown for the food side, with very little grown for fibre only. However, Hermann said interest was growing on the fibre side of the industry, with more investment and research projects in the works for the sector. Research into livestock feeding is also underway, which is expected to open up more markets as well.

Roughly 25,000 acres were planted to hemp for the for seed production this year, which is slightly above the seeded area the previous year. Hermann said an additional 5,000 to 7,000 acres were seeded to fibre only.

Due to industrial hemp’s association with its cousin marijuana, farmers need to be licensed through Health Canada and pass a criminal record check in order to grow the crop. Testing is also required to confirm levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, are below the allowable 0.3 per cent.

Development

From a marketing standpoint, the legislated nature of the hemp industry means that all of the crop is grown on a contracted basis. This year, conventionally grown hempseed was contracted for 60 to 65 cents per pound, with organic hempseed contracted at 90 to 95 cents per pound, which Hermann described as being consistent with past years.

When factoring in crop input costs, an average hemp seed crop brings in $250 to $400 profit per acre, Hermann estimated.

While the crop is still only accounts for a very small percentage of agricultural production in Canada, Hermann said interest in growing hemp was increasing, with more research and development being put into the crop.

The CHTA will hold its national conference Winnipeg Nov. 20-22 to discuss developments in the industry.

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