A Maritime Industrial Hemp Product Marketing Studys

Executive Summary

1. Conclusions

  • World production of hemp fibre and tow and hemp grain has followed a long period of decline. Increased demand for hemp products over the last decade has not yet fuelled an increase in world production of fibre and grain. Volumes of imported hemp raw fibre and manufactured goods into Canada are small.
  • It is clear a culture of believers in hemp and its variety of uses has developed in North America. This is reflected in the growth of hemp-based products, all based on imports of hemp fibre, grain and oil. Some individuals within the agricultural community have observed this and believe there is an opportunity to supply this demand with domestically produced hemp fibre and grain.
  • The markets for hemp products can best be described as developing. They are primarily a loosely connected set of niche markets. This industry is in its infancy, having lain dormant on the supply-side in North America for 60 years.
  • Despite the high degree of interest in hemp, little or no hemp has been sold by Canadian processors to date. The first sales will occur when the approximately 5,300 acres are harvested and processed this year. Only then will the there be a demonstration of the real market potential of various hemp products. By next spring, the potential markets should be substantially better defined.
  • This study was aimed at identifying the potential for a Maritime-wide industry. Maritime production is small, made up of only a handful of growers. In the absence of a well-developed distribution system, there appears to exist only niche-market opportunities for a small number of growers. Our research suggests that at this time substantial effort will be required to develop a Maritime industry for many of the markets claimed for hemp products such as textiles, building materials, alcoholic beverages, livestock feed, bedding and biomass fuels. The main reasons include insufficient processing and value-added infrastructure and incomplete research and development results.
  • There appears to be some potential for oil production if both the agronomic and economic feasibility can be demonstrated and local cold press crushing facilities are established. The heath food market also offers some potential. However, testing oilseed viability cannot occur before 1999 given limited production and the fibre-focus of Maritime growers this season.
  • If the interest reportedly expressed by Minas Basin Pulp & Power Co. in using hemp fibre in its paperboard products is confirmed, this may be the best example of a concrete market in the Maritimes for hemp.

2. Recommendations

  • The priorities for the departments of agriculture in the Maritimes appear to be:
  • Monitor the production, processing and marketing of fibre, grain and seed across Canada.
  • Monitor the regulatory system.
  • Acquire and test as many varieties as possible from European, Canadian and plant breeders.
  • As market opportunities become clearer, the direction for testing, whether it be for fibre or grain varieties, will become evident as will the need to maximize yields under Maritime conditions and management schemes.
  • Prepare and provide to growers and processors a summary of the information in this report and include any agronomic reports completed over this fall and winter. The information should be provided no later than the spring of 1999.
  • Research and information dissemination should be supported rather than investment into infrastructure, given the immaturity and uncertainty of the markets for hemp.

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