REPORT #459 March 2002

Produced by the Belize Development Trust


There are many varieties of hemp. Some are for drugs and some are for industrial uses. Hemp was outlawed in the USA, to favor chemical synthetics like nylon, rayon and polyester to find markets. Hemp ropes are stronger for intance than polypropelyene ropes commonly sold in chain stores in the USA. But the rules of world economic dominance gives the USA an advantage if rope sales are restricted to synthetics some argue. Hemp rope and other industrial products are too strong a competitor; as a weed of many different varieties it can be grown in any third world country. A hemp particle board industry was killed in Nicaragua, by the USA using the long arm of the DEA department as an excuse for commercial dominance says one approved Canadian hemp industrial producer.

" Phyllis Dart/Belize asked:

What would be the minimum acreage that would be possible to make it "worthwhile?"

What kind of machinery or equipment is necessary to plant, harvest, and process?

Where is the closest market to sell to?

Reply from Don in Canada a proponent of industrial hemp products.
There is no greater advocate for hemp cultivation than myself. And I consider Belize my second home. But some realism please.

Actually, your third question should be the first question a would-be hemp entrepreneur should ask. Where is the market? The market was the US and Europe, pretty much the same for any other goods. But the US government is doing its best to shut down the hemp industry (no matter how illegal their actions, see And Europe subsidizes its farm industries to such a point that exporting foods there is impossible. So the market is what ever you can make of it, and good luck.

Hemp got the shaft for 60 years before we started to revive it. Farmers and processors developed improved varieties and manufacturing methods for every other crop. Hemp was banned and fell behind. Thousands of varieties were lost. We are doing the hero's work to get it back into commerce. But its a slow process, especially in such a hostile regulatory environment.

So it really takes someone with heart and determination and a deep pocket to make hemp work. And it takes a place where the practice is encouraged by government. Canada will get a nice economic boost from hemp because a few officials there saw the potential and were not worried about being labeled with a drug stigma.

Belize can grow great hemp, but no varieties are yet developed for such a place. Give us 4 years (and another $200,000). Farmers with standard seed planting and grain harvesting equipment can grow hemp. But what local industries are there to process it? And where is the government to help? And then add all of Peter's frustrations about how every effort there is sabotaged by petty jealousy, inflated egos or incompetence.

There is a lot of documentation from the '30s about Polish immigrants getting in trouble for the small hemp patches the were keeping for manufacturing their homespun clothing. There really is no minimum acreage. But economically in these modern times and considering the size of modern equipment, I would say 20-40 acres is a minimum to be economical.

Hemp for seed for food and feed is easy. Belize could do that now, but the crops would not yield well until better varieties were developed through acclamation and good breeding.

In a previous post on the same subject I got into the details of building materials and how a small package plant out of Germany was capable of turning the straw from hemp into incredible quality particle board for building houses. They would be moisture and termite proof. This is the best chance for hemp to make a real industry in Belize. Investment, about $7M USD. Some people tried to do this in Nicaragua. Instead the government (with US backing) stepped in and declared the operation the largest drug haul in American history. The Canadian agricultural expert was tossed into jail for a year until he could prove his innocence. Every piece of equipment they purchased from irrigation pipes to tractors was stolen before he got out.

I am willing to help anyone interested in introducing hemp to Belize, but my hopes are not great. My efforts are going into countries like Canada and Romania where we are well treated by the powers that be. "

Editors note: This raises profound questions on national sovereignty and third world ability to plant alternative crops and seek world markets. Belize should be asking itself if they will follow hemp laws of Canada or of the USA?

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