After five years of planning, construction of the province’s first large-scale hemp fibre-processing plant near Gilbert Plains has begun.
A handful of dignitaries were present for a groundbreaking ceremony last week as the first steel beams were erected on the site.
Robert Jin, president of Plains Industrial Hemp Processing, first announced his plan to build the facility capable of processing up to 18,000 tonnes of industrial hemp annually in April of last year.
With provincial environment licensing approval secured, the project site has begun its transformation. Local companies have been hired to design the building and prepare the site ahead of the arrival of building materials and construction contractors. Containers filled with specially designed hemp-processing equipment are in storage nearby.
“I am very grateful for the strong support from local producers, communities, and all levels of governments to this project,” said Jin. “Without it, this project would not have come this far.”
The export-oriented facility will cost $8,875,000. The federal government has extended two repayable loans totalling $4,775,000, while the province is contributing a non-repayable grant of $500,000.
“By building on the potential to export hemp fibre, Mr. Jin adds to the list of Manitoba’s agriculture products that carry our reputation for excellence around the world,” said Stan Struthers, minister of Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.
Plains Industrial Hemp Processing has worked closely with the Parkland Agricultural Resource Co-op (PARC) to first develop its business plan, and then a pilot plant to test proprietary equipment made to handle hemp in large round bales, said Marnie Kostur, PARC’s project administrator.
“This is an opportunity for farmers in the region to develop a local market for industrial hemp straw that is currently underutilized,” she said.
PARC is composed of nine municipalities which have banded together to foster economic development in the region.
Rod Fisher, president of Fisher Seeds and a veteran industrial and pedigreed hemp grower in Dauphin, said that the new plant, as a buyer of hemp straw, will open up new cropping options for local farmers.
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“Thisisanopportunity forfarmersinthe regiontodevelop alocalmarketfor industrialhempstraw thatiscurrently underutilized.”
– MARNIE KOSTUR, PARKLAND AGRICULTURAL RESOURCE CO-OP