Hemp seed and oil processors and exporters in Canada are struggling to find the supplies to meet the organic hemp or nothing stance being adopted by increasingly health-conscious consumers.
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Organic hemp isn’t as common as you think
A higher price isn’t always the answer. It certainly doesn’t appear to be when it comes to meeting the burgeoning demand for organic hemp seeds in Canada. Increasingly, consumers are demanding it, and they are willing to pay higher prices to get it. To satisfy them, the processors and exporters are also demanding it from their producers. They, too, are willing to pay more to get it.
However, that’s where the process of slapping a higher price on the problem in an attempt to solve it, appears to get stuck. According to The Western Producer, producers of hemp (a non-psychoactive form of cannabis) are not ready, or able, to produce sufficient organic hemp to meet the demand, even knowing they could nett more than double the price for a harvest from organic hemp plants. According to processors, the nominal price per pound of conventionally grown hemp is about 80 cents, while a pound of organic hemp could earn the producer around $1.70.
Why the demand is there for organic hemp
Consumers are choosing to buy hemp seeds and hemp seed oil because of their nutritional values such as high protein content and healthy oils. They are therefore health conscious, and have probably been exposed to the huge amounts of information circulating about wider issues which could affect products and foods they consume. Concerns about the effects of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, GMO’s and other factors are featured daily on news channels, health shows and social media feeds.
It’s not that simple to go and grow organic
Complicating matters is that following a bumper crop last year, there is likely to be less contracted production of conventional hemp this year, because processors and exporters have enough stock to carry them through. It’s the organic version they want.
Organic food is produced in a farming system which avoids the use of man-made, or synthetic fertilizers, growth regulators, seed that has been genetically modified, and pesticides and fungicides. Farming methods have to rely instead on crop rotation, the use of biological forms of pest control and composted manure certified to be of animal origin. To claim that a product is organic is not enough, the claim has to be backed by certification from an accredited third party before it can be labelled and marketed as organic.
No registered pesticides for hemp in Canada
As there are no registered in-crop pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or insecticides in Canada for hemp production for food, the conventionally-grown product is part of the way there as that part of the organic process is already in place. It still leaves the cultivation side of things.
The hemp plant is large and uses up a lot of nutrients and nitrogen in the soil, which could provide a problems for producers trying to take the organic approach, which outlaws the use of fertilizers. Changing to an organic system of crop rotation can take years to accomplish. Organic standards call for organic practices to have been used on land for three years before the first certified crop.
The option of trying to hedge ones bets by selling conventional and organic hemp seed from the same farm at the same time is not allowed. However, a farmer can gradually introduce the organic practices needed to change to total organic production over a period of several years in clearly separated areas. The organic section will not be certified as such until the whole farm is.