Is Industrial Hemp in Belize’s future?

Posted By: Marty

Is Industrial Hemp in Belize’s future? - 04/05/18 11:04 AM

For the first two months of this year, the country’s imports totaled two hundred and eighty point nine million dollars, an increase of one point six percent or four point three million dollars when compared to the first two months of 2017. Exports for January and February totaled forty eight point five million dollars, this was a decrease of nineteen point six percent or eleven point eight million dollars when compared to the same period in 2017. The unbalanced ratio of exports to imports have been plaguing Belize for many years. However, the Government is attempting to close the gap by signing onto trade agreements with regional countries and investing in existing and emerging sub-sectors. One of those sectors is industrial hemp. During day two of the Budget Debate, Minister of Trade, Investment and Commerce, Tracey Taeger-Panton announced that Government is moving full steam ahead with the production of industrial hemp, something that raised concerns from Toledo East Representative, Mike Espat.

Tracey Taegar- Panton, Minister of Investment Trade and Commerce: “These initiatives underscore the government’s pro business approach to stimulating a medium to long term growth strategy for Belize. We are exploring new subsectors for income generation such as the industrial hemp industry. Regulations are now being drafted to put into place the necessary management framework and operational guidelines that will provide an enabling environment for the development of new products for export.”

Michael Espat, Area Representative, Toledo East: ” I heard the member of Albert talking about industrial hemp, I wish you luck Minister because the American Government will come down on you with all the heat that they can put on you. Because we tried that too. We tried it too, people came to us with all those proposals. They did not accept it because both of them look alike. When you fly with the helicopter over the fields they can’t identify what is industrial hemp and what is regular marijuana. So I wish you luck. It’s something good, it’s something that we need to follow to see if we can eventually use it but they may not allow us to do so.”

Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and is of the same plant species as marijuana. It is legal in Belize and prohibiting the production of it is against the constitution.


Posted By: Marty

Re: Is Industrial Hemp in Belize’s future? - 09/07/18 05:40 PM

from a friend...

I used to use Hemp ropes. In many ways they are better and much safer than modern nylon and other synthetic ropes. Modern synthetic ropes stretch, so store energy, so if they break or come loose, they release energy and can be a serious hazard. But Hemp ropes do not do that and so are safer. Synthetic ropes stretch and stretch, then snap. Hemp ropes do not stretch, when they reach their breaking point, you get the odd strands breaking, which give a good warning of overload, without actually breaking. They also make far better paper then wood pulp paper at much lower energy and labor costs plus the stuff lasts for century's unlike wood pulp paper that last about 100 years without special treatment. "The Belize Misuse of Drugs Act of 2017" now excludes industrial hemp from the definition of cannabis.

From the Belize Ag Report...

Technical Consultation of Industrial Hemp Production in Belize

by Beth Roberson

On Tuesday, 13th March 2018 Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, The Environment, Sustainable Development and Immigration (MAFFESDI), the Attorney General’s office, Caribbean Agriculture Research & Development Institute (CARDI), Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA), Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) and other GOB concerned parties invited stakeholders to join them in a packed NATS Conference Room for a full day of presentations and discussions about the potential of an industrial hemp industry for Belize.

In spite of the meeting being held on Cabinet day, Minister Hulse nevertheless found time to open the long-awaited consultation with positive remarks about the hemp industry. He compared the media coverage on hemp to that of coconut oil: “The pharmacy industry said it [coconut oil] is not good for you, but that is not true – same is true of cannabis. I go by the practice.”

The first presenter for the day was Ms. Karin Westdyk of Cayo District who highlighted the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana. The main differences include:

  1. Chemistry- industrial hemp has low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and a higher CBD (cannabidoil). THC content: marijuana has approximately 10% or more THC (some medical marijuana can have up to 30% THC) and industrial hemp has 0.0 to 0.5% THC.
  2. Appearance – Issue 39 Article: Industrial Hemp Cultivation in the Tropics or find photos in our printed Issue 39, pg 32 where you will readily see the different look of marijuana and industrial hemp crops in the field.) Hemp grows tightly with 30-40 plants per sq. ft. and up to 15 ft. high. Marijuana needs sun and space.
  3. There are approximately 25,000 uses for industrial hemp.
  4. Hemp cleans soil. Following the Cherynobyl nuclear disaster, hemp was planted in that area as part of the environmental clean up efforts. Lands can be restored from chemical contamination also when hemp is planted in rotation.

Karin continued outlining industrial hemp’s virtues, including its fiber which is very strong. Hemp hurds (see diagram) mixed with lime create an incredible building material. Later in the day, Mr. Charles Kovess of the Australian Industrial Hemp Association (AIHA) also raved about the utility and incredible marketing opportunities for hemp fiber. He summarized that “there are a number of hemp processors around the world, but there is a great shortage of fiber… World over hemp production is a cottage industry, with less than 300,000 tons grown… whereas the global production of cotton is 29 M tons.”

Hemp’s bast fibers are valued for their length, strength and durability. One large obstacle to processing industrial hemp in the past has been the retting process. Only recently the patenting of an industrial de-corticator (Model D8 Decorticator ) has been a game-changer, eliminating the need for retting. Historically the best canvas materials have been made from hemp; the name ‘canvas’ derives from cannabis. Hemp is a much more environmentally friendly crop than cotton, needing fractionally less pesticides and water (see chart).

A video conference was held with an American woman Ms. Janice, who is keen to provide marketing services to Belize, including branding and developing value-added hemp industries, which could be a huge offset to our foreign exchange. She further noted that “hemp biodegradable plastic could play a huge role as fossil fuel plastics are a growing nightmare”.

Crown Counsel Odwin Trenton of the Attorney General’s office made a short presentation followed by a very interactive question and answer session in which he was asking the private sector for inputs. He stated, “Industrial hemp is marijuana’s sober cousin”, and that of the several US states and 30 countries allowing industrial hemp, the only commonwealth members currently growing are Canada and Australia. Mr. Trenton opined that he believes criteria might be established allowing from 0.0 to 1.5% THC.

CARDI agronomist Mr. George Emmanuel stated that “CARICOM has already decided on the 0.3%, so we need to keep that in mind”. CARDI country representative Ms. Omaira Avila reminded everyone that Belize will be needing a laboratory for the hemp industry. Defining what financial costs will need to be met from hemp license revenues and also what criteria (farmer criteria) should be implemented to obtain a hemp cultivation license sparked lively but productive interactive discussions.

Regarding establishing criteria for hemp varieties to be allowed into Belize, Mr. Kovess of AIHA very strongly advised Belize to consider the services of Mr. John Muir ( Muir is an agricultural development agronomist and an industrial hemp consultant. He is currently contracted by the Cambodian government, assisting them with many of the same difficult questions that we in Belize are deliberating; the critical decisions forthcoming from GOB can bless or condemn an industrial hemp industry here.

MAFFESDI’s CEO Mr. Jose Alpuche summed up the day’s activities, commenting, “[Industrial hemp] is not a moral issue; this is a business issue, and Ministry has to overcome [factors] and take things from a strictly business perspective”. All present couldn’t have agreed more with the CEO, and are keenly waiting to hear more from GOB in order to proceed with establishing a vibrant industrial hemp industry in Belize.

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