FAR FROM WEAKENING THE SOILS AND HARMING THE ENVIRONMENT, HEMP IS A BENEFICIAL AND VERY ECOLOGICAL CROP. CANADA IS THE WORLD’S SECOND LARGEST PRODUCER AND HAS ALL THE ASSETS TO DEVELOP ITS PRODUCTION AND TRANSFORM HEMP INTO A VARIETY OF PRODUCTS. IT IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR LOCAL AGRICULTURE AND ECONOMY.
A SUSTAINABLE CULTURE
Hemp is an annual plant from the cannabaceae family (that also includes hops). It has many important agricultural, environmental and economical benefits.
- A low maintenance crop, hemp doesn’t require herbicide, fungicide, insecticide or defoliant! It just needs a nitrogen-based fertiliser that, in organic agriculture, is provided by manure. It is also non-GMO. For all these reasons, hemp is a very ecological crop. Using less chemical input in agriculture has positive impacts on the producers and the consumers’ health, on the soils and globally, on the environment.
- Draught-resistant and very adaptable. Hemp doesn’t require irrigation in most cases and adapts to a wide variety of climates, from the tropical regions to the northern ones, like Canada or Russia.
- Easy to grow. Even if harvesting and storing hemp is more complex, growing hemp is easy. It only needs two procedures in the fields: planting and harvesting.
- Good for the soil. It is a great rotation crop: it adequately prepares the soil for the next crop. And after the harvest, the remains of stems and leaves left on the ground provide beneficial nutrients by decomposing.
- Local and ethical. When it is produced locally, hemp limits raw material transportation while guaranteeing a fair-trade supply.
- Full of potential. Hemp is a new and interesting option for farmers and offers many processing possibilities for the industry. In Canada, the production is currently focused on the seed, which has been very profitable in the last few years, although the competition with Chinese products is growing. Current research on the dual purpose crops (seeds and fibers) and the development of new markets are very promising.
WORLD PRODUCTION OVERVIEW
In 2017, the world production reached about 160,000 hectares. Here’s how it was distributed:
• China: 80,000 ha (estimated – no reliable data)
• Canada: 55,380 ha
• Europe (including Russia): +/- 20,000 ha
• United States: 10,435 ha
In Canada, the main production regions are Saskatchewan (22,600 hectares in 2017), Alberta (18,000 ha) and Manitoba (11,700). Quebec is in 4th position with 2,037 hectares (data from a Health Canada report using available data from January 1st to October 25th, 2017).
The cultivated areas have been increasing constantly in the last years: 506 hectares in 2015, 870 in 2016 and 2037 hectares in 2017. In 2017, Quebec had about a hundred producers, about 30 of which were in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, the main producing region in the province.
As of now, in the province, hemp is mainly used commercially for its seeds for human consumption, especially in the organic food market. It is also produced for crafts and experimental uses.