Hearty demand for hemp expected to boost organic acres

Photo: File

By Jade Markus
OrganicBiz staff

Continued demand for organic hemp is behind an expected increase in organic acres on the Prairies this year, according to early estimates from one industry group.

Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd. is still collecting data for this year, but early indications show organic acres rising, as current producers increase the amount they grow.

“But the amount of producers [transitioning to organic] is going to be a little bit down from what we’ve seen in the last couple years,” said Cody Sander, certification co-ordinator at Pro-Cert., though there are still a number of producers expected to make the switch.

We are continuing to search for more organic acres. We’ve got more demand than what we can meet right now… – Clarence Shwaluk, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods

“I think a little bit is we’re not out, as an industry promoting it quite as much as we were a few years ago,” he said.
Organic prices have also started to feel pressure, though still highly profitable, which may have curbed the amount of producers looking to join the ranks.

Organic rules require transitioning producers to register with a certification body 15 months before they market a product as organic, Laura Telford, organic sector specialist with Manitoba Agriculture said in an emailed statement. As a result, it can be difficult to measure the number of producers in transition. Telford added that she is working with about 50 producers in Manitoba who have indicated that they are interested in transitioning, “but I don’t know how many will actually become organic.”

Year-over-year increases in demand for organic hemp means the commodity is lending itself to anticipated growth. Sander said he has received a lot of phone calls from people looking to transition to organic hemp this year, as the industry has been aggressively contracting.

“We are continuing to search for more organic acres. We’ve got more demand than what we can meet right now through our current production,” said Clarence Shwaluk, director of farm operations, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods.

Most of Canada’s organic hemp is being contracted around $1.85 per pound this year, Shwaluk said. Demand is mostly within North America and is for products such as shelled hemp seed, hemp oil, hemp protein powders, among other processed products.

“We’re seeing more demand from the people who buy from us, so there’s continually more demand for organic hemp,” he said.