Canada’s hemp crop came off in reasonably good shape this year, despite some problems with excessive moisture earlier in the growing season.
The crop is grown across Canada, but the majority of the acres are in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Anndrea Hermann, who works for Hemp Oil Canada, a Manitoba-based hempseed processor, and is vice-president of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, estimated that 20,000 to 25,000 acres of hemp were grown in the country in 2010, which would compare with about 14,000 acres the previous year.
Some farmers planted their crops in early May, before the rains hit, allowing the fields to get a leg up before the moisture. Other fields went in the ground later and were hampered by the rain. However, she said, overall yields still turned out good.
Average yields for hemp grown in Canada usually work out to around 20 bushels per acre, or 880 pounds per acre. Hermann said results for this year’s crop were showing yields in the 800-to 1,000-pounds-per- acre range for conventionally grown hempseed and 900 to 1,200 pounds per acre on the organic side.
More producers were growing newer Canadian-bred cultivars designed for the country’s conditions, she noted.
From a pricing standpoint, hemp is all grown on a contracted basis, with prices to the grower this past year generally in the 50-to 60-cents-per-pound area for conventionally grown hempseed and $1 per pound for organic seed, said Hermann.
Currently the industry is primarily focused on the seed side of the coin, as that’s where the most processing capacity lies. However, Hermann said more interest is also being shown on processing hemp for its fibre, with initiatives in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
Due to industrial hemp’s association with its cousin marijuana, farmers need to be licensed through Health Canada and to pass a criminal record check to grow the crop.
Testing is also required to confirm low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, below the allowable 0.3 per cent.
Hermann noted that there was more paperwork involved with growing hemp, but said growers who were comfortable with the crop were generally looking to increase acres, while new producers were also showing interest in the crop.