Monday, June 6, 2016

Hemp industry scrambling to meet new Korean demand


Regulatory hurdles seen hindering expansion of acres


CNS Canada — An explosion in demand for Canadian hemp out of South Korea is welcome news for the industry, but strict regulations may hamper just how much of that demand will be met this year.
“The doors have blown off the market in Korea for hemp,” said Kim Shukla, executive director of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance at Steinbach, Man.
Six months ago, South Korea was unknown as a market for Canadian hemp; now, “that market requirement is outstripping the requirements for the U.S.,” said Shukla. A promotion on a home shopping channel in South Korea led to sales of 40,000 pounds of hempseed in one hour, according to reports.
Before South Korea materialized with an appetite for Canadian hemp, Canada had been sitting on ample old-crop supplies and contracted acres were down “as this was going to be a clean-up year,” said Shukla.
“Now, we’re beginning to think that we will need to plant more seed to meet the market demand,” she said.
However, the regulations in place for growing hemp are hampering a quick increase in acres, as farmers are unable to get licensed in time.
Due to industrial hemp’s association with its cousin marijuana, farmers need to be licensed through Health Canada and pass a criminal record check in order to grow the crop. Testing is also required to confirm levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, are below the allowable 0.3 per cent.
After growing about 85,000 acres of hemp in 2015, Shukla estimated that acres may be down to only 30,000 in 2016.
While the Canadian industry will be working hard to fulfill commitments, he said, “it will be close.”
Goodwin recently returned from a trade trip to Seoul and foresaw continued growth from Korea through 2016. However, he said Korean demand could see a pullback in 2017, as smaller players exit the market and the initial excitement subsides.
While Korean demand may eventually top out, Goodwin said other Asian countries — including Japan and Thailand — are expected to see growth and will more than make up for any adjustments in the Korean market.
— Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow CNS Canada at@CNSCanada on Twitter.

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