HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Hemps Future Bright Say Proponents
Pubdate: Wed, 22 Mar 2006
Source: Voice of the Farmer (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 Osprey Media
Author: Mary Baxter, Voice of the Farmer Staff 	
Bookmark: (Hemp - Outside U.S.)


WOODSTOCK A crop for the future or a crop for crackpots?

The perspectives on hemp are as varied as its potential uses but the small 
group of growers, marketers and researchers who gathered here earlier this 
month is convinced of the grain's potential to earn a steady income.

Just make sure you have a contract lined up in advance of planting and, 
when planting, choose a spot well in the public eye to prevent police and 
others from mistaking your hemp from its more potent cousin, were the words 
of advice offered at the Ontario Hemp Alliance's annual meeting March 1.

Currently, there are roughly 300 acres of commercial hemp grown in Ontario 
produced by about 10 growers said Gordon Scheifele, president of the 
provincial organization. That's considerably less than the 8,000 to 10,000 
acres produced annually in Manitoba but he says the progress on acceptance 
of the crop is right on target.

Niels Hansen-Trip, who helped set up the Health Canada's Industrial Hemp 
Licensing and Authorization office in the 1990s, shares his point of view.

"Hemp has had a unique start," said Hansen-Trip, pointing out that up until 
the mid-1990s the plant was linked very closely to marijuana in terms of 
regulations governing its production. When it became legal to grow hemp in 
1998 there was a surge of interest in growing the crop.

"A lot of people had the attitude if they grew hemp there would be 
manufacturers out there to buy it," he said.

When it was realized the market for hemp was small, production dropped off. 
However, with new uses being found for hemp, the amount grown will 
gradually increase, he predicted.

Geoff Kime's Dorchester-based company, Hempline, is one of those processors 
exploring new uses for the crop. At present, Kime's company uses the plant 
to generate fibre and chips used in products ranging from animal bedding 
and garden mulch to insulation, cement, plaster reinforcements and even 
plastics destined for the automotive industry.

In a presentation to the association, Kime admitted developing consumer 
markets for hemp has been challenging but expressed optimism for the 
plant's future, particularly in connection with automotive products.

While Kime won't be contracting crops this year he said he has a surplus at 
present he plans to get an expansion of his facility underway in about six 
months to be completed in about a year and a half.

"We have to have that (expansion) otherwise we're not going to be able to 
supply it (products for the auto industry)," he said, explaining the 
ability to deliver products of a consistent quality in the volumes needed 
is key to sustaining the automotive industry's interest in hemp.

Kime estimated that if the auto industry's interest in hemp continues, it 
alone would generate enough demand for 40,000 to 50,000 acres of the crop 
in the province within five years.

Hemp's future as a staple for the auto industry is very bright, he added, 
noting there is a lot of pressure on the industry to reduce the weight and 
complexity of its products and use renewable materials.

"In Europe, every car maker is using natural fibre composite inside cars," 
he said, noting on this side of the ocean, research is also taking place on 
using natural fibres in the manufacture of exterior components.

Like Kime, Shawn Patrick House, president of Hempzel's, a Pennsylvania food 
processor that specializes in making pretzels, mustard and even horseradish 
using hemp, was optimistic about the grain's future.

House said his products have recently been picked up on the west coast of 
the U.S. and are selling rapidly there.

He also described plans of marketing products like seeds and flour to 
neighbouring food processors in Pennsylvania.

While he normally acquires hemp from Manitoba growers, House said he would 
be interested in obtaining it from Ontario growers as long as the price was 

He noted Canada had a distinct advantage in the market over the U.S. it is 
still illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. but given the current climate in the 
his country, laws preventing the cultivation of hemp may be overturned 
within a few years.

Exploration is also being made into the feasibility of establishing a hemp 
processing facility in Eastern Ontario. Kathryn Wood of Natural Capital 
Resources Inc., told those attending the meeting a business case for such a 
facility had been developed. While an agreement to finance the project with 
one firm had fallen through, three other parties were currently considering 
the business case, she said.

Gerald Shepetunko, who grows 16 acres of hemp on his farm near Arthur has 
opted to expand his business by introducing processing and oil extraction 
facilities. He estimates he will acquire 150,000 pounds of hemp this year 
for his new venture. "There's a lot of talk but not a lot of action," he 
said during the meeting. "I'm looking at doing something."

During the meeting, other uses were also suggested with one grower pointing 
out hemp might have potential as a biofuel. Such diversity of potential use 
comes as no surprise to Gordon Scheifele, who first became interested in 
hemp through his work in plant breeding research.

"It's a unique plant genetically," he said.

Scheifele noted hemp had been a staple of past generations and was used for 
everything from making rope and clothing to sails for shipping fleets.

"The industry today is totally different," he said, noting alongside 
textile use the plant can be used to make everything from plastics to 
building materials.

His organization fields many inquiries about growing hemp but "they are 
coming from people not coming out of a good farm background," that might 
have a romantic or idealistic perception of the crop and don't have the 
equipment required.

"What we are looking for are farmers in it for a life income and an 
alternate for soybeans and corn," he said.

Hemp costs

If you're wanting to grow hemp, then it's important to consider planting 
something that could be put to at least two uses, advises Ingersoll area 
farmer Dan Scheele.

In a presentation during the March 1 Ontario Hemp Alliance annual meeting, 
Scheele, who has grown the crop for several years, estimated the total cost 
of production per acre for hemp to be about $520. Those costs included land 
rental, plowing, fertilizer, planting, seed cost, herbicide, harvesting and 
cleaning as well as miscellaneous costs (such as obtaining licensing to 
grow the plant and mandatory lab testing), but don't take into account the 
grower's labour costs, he said.

To break even, a grower would have to receive at least $0.65 a pound if 
averaging an 800 lbs per acre yield; $0.52/lb if averaging 1,000 lbs per 
acre; and $0.43/lb if averaging 1,200 lbs per acre. Those amounts are under 
the average of between $0.70 Scheele has received in the past for the sale 
of his crop, but may not be a competitive with Manitoba growers's pricing. 
Production costs for growers in that part of Canada are lower because they 
do not have to deal with land rent costs, he explained.

Scheele said what's needed is a way to earn at least another $100 per acre. 
A dual purpose crop, such as one grown for both its grain and fibre is one 
option, he said. However, Scheele noted such a combination would incur 
additional costs such as cleaning, baling and transporting the plant's stalks.

If a viable way of adding those extra dollars to the crop is found, "then I 
think guys are going to be looking at hemp," he said.
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