Apr. 23/98

Manitoba Co-operator Ron Friesen

According to the article, about 40 Manitoba farmers last week received contracts in the mail to grow the province's first hemp crop in 70 years. Executive vice-president Bruce Froebe said that Consolidated Growers and Processors (CGP) Canada Limited plans to grow nearly 1,000 acres of hemp in Manitoba this year for seed and fibre. He said the company is contracting for roughly 500 acres in the Portage la Prairie-Winnipeg region, and another 500 acres in the Dauphin district.

The article said that the announcement marks Manitoba's return as the centre of Canada's hemp industry. Back in the 1920s, Manitoba grew more than a thousand acres of hemp for making rope and twine but the federal government eventually banned commercial hemp because the crop is a cousin of marijuana. This year, Health Canada approved production of hemp varieties low in THC, the drug in marijuana. (Agnet passim) The article reported that farmers must be licensed by Ottawa to grow the crop under strict conditions.

Froebe went on to say that the company chose Manitoba because provincial agriculture officials have been working with growers for three years to test the crop. He noted that a handful of Saskatchewan farmers are also getting contracts. The story said that CGP is a U.S. company based in Monterey, California. The publicly traded firm officially opened its Canadian office in Winnipeg last weekend. It also has offices in Switzerland, Germany and Hungary. Froebe said CGP is offering farmers $1.30 a kg for seed and $20 a tonne for hemp stalks which produce fibre. He also said a good farmer can expect one acre to average 300 kg of seed and 2.5 tonnes of stalk. According to the story, CGP takes portable equipment to farmers' fields to cut, ret and bale the stalks after the seed is harvested. Froebe called 1998 a "research year" for the company. It expects to contract for more acres when it knows how the crop performs here.

CGP's plans also included a hemp processing facility in Manitoba, possibly for next year, at a site yet to be determined. Another company, Hempola Inc. of Port Severn, Ontario, also hoped to contract with growers. It processes hemp seed into oil for health food and cosmetic products.

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