Natural Foods Merchandiser

Hemp Demand Up

To the Editor,
I?m writing about certain marketplace misconceptions presented in your recent piece, ?FDA?s Hemp Ban Goes Up in Smoke? (April 2004). [Note: NFM incorrectly identified the agency involved; it was the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration?s hemp ban.]

Over the past three years, the North American hemp industry has seen some steady growth. Some companies are reporting a 20 percent to 40 percent rise in annual gross sales over this period. While many of these firms are new businesses, some are established food companies who are finding hemp to be a profitable addition to their lines.

During this period, we have also seen an increasing diversity of hemp-based food products. Since the DEA vs. Hemp became an issue in 2001, field production of hemp in Canada (where it is legal to grow under federal regulation) has climbed from 1,300 hectares (about 3,000 acres) to 2,700 hectares (about 6,000 acres). Canada, it should be noted, is the primary supplier for hemp seed for the U.S. market.

For the 2004 crop year, we are projecting a 20 percent growth in cultivation, which has gone up because demand is growing. Companies that have a reliable supply chain are the ones best positioned to gain market share. This favors Canadian companies and U.S. companies that have created long-term relationships with Canadian companies and family farms.

Besides supply chain issues, getting a new food product onto store shelves depends on an effective marketing and education program.

Hemp foods have come a long way in the past few years and as the industry continues to mature, more retailers will welcome these products, and well-informed consumers will increasingly demand them. Since 1998, Canada has grown industrial hemp for seed and for fiber. Canadian farmers and businesses are interested in hemp as it has enormous potential to produce healthy food, nutraceuticals and environmentally friendly products, including paper, textiles, biocomposites and sustainable building materials. The Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance/Alliance Commerciale Canadienne du Chanvre was formed in 2003; we are a nonprofit national group of hemp processors, marketers, farmers and information specialists.

—Arthur Hanks Executive Director, The CHTA/ACCC

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 6/p. 24

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