Tapping into Global Hemp Fibre Value Chains

When it comes to the hemp growing industry, the Canadian prairies are seeing a phenomenal boom. Industrial hemp acreage has seen an annual increase of 20 to 30 percent each year during 2010 to 2014. In 2017, Canada hit record 138,000 acres of hemp, a sharp spike from just 8,000 acres as recently as 2008.

Hemp in Alberta

Alberta has gone from a tiny fraction of growers to a powerhouse. Alberta Agriculture statistics show that in 1998, the first year industrial hemp was made legal, the province grew only 94 acres, or 1.6 percent of Canada’s crop. By 2011, that number ballooned to nearly 16 000 acres—a full 40 percent of the nation’s output and the most productive single province.

Alberta’s economy continues to be profoundly impacted by the steep and prolonged drop in oil prices. The Alberta Treasury Board reports that in 2016, this impact has spread beyond the energy sector. Retail activity, housing, construction, labour markets and manufacturing are all showing significant signs of weakness. Adding to Northern Alberta’s economic slowdown, forest fires in the Wood Buffalo region temporarily disrupted oil production and further reduced Alberta’s GDP in 2016.

Today, Alberta and Saskatchewan alternate in leading hemp production among the three prairie provinces with over 110,000 acres grown for the organic seed, oil and meal markets between the two provinces last year. In 2017 Canada had 138,013 acres of hemp in production permits with Health Canada. Alberta had 44,682 acres, whereas Saskatchewan and Manitoba had 56, 239 and 29,862, respectively.

Hemp Anatomy

Bast

The outer core of the hemp stem contains the bast fibres. These are the strong, long, and slender fibres that provide the high quality attributed to hemp. Bast hemp fibre has excellent durability and absorbency, as well as anti-mildew and anti-microbial properties. It is in demand for car panels in the automotive industry and for insulation, carpeting and paneling amongst other uses in the building construction industry.

Hurds

Hurds as they are sometimes referred to, are the core fibres derived from the sturdy, wood-like stalk of the hemp plant. These also possess anti-mildew and anti microbial properties. These are currently used for simulated cedar shakes, fibre boards and other materials used in the building construction industry.

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