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Industrial Hemp Production

Industrial Hemp was commercially produced in the 1800’s in many parts of the world. It was used to manufacture rope, cloth, sails and paper etc.The introduction of cotton and petroleum products and new processing techniques for these products lead to the demise of the hemp industry in the early 1900’s. Legislated changes in North America at the time also made the propagation of known varieties virtually impossible.
Limited research is available for industrial hemp production in Manitoba. Innovative Producers, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives and the hemp industry have developed hemp production systems. The industry and experience is growing.


Industry Background

Industrial hemp production has remained legal throughout most of the world. The world hemp fibre market continues to be dominated by many of the low cost producers. China, South Korea, and the Former Soviet Union produce about 70% of the world supply. China alone produces about three fourths of the world supply of hemp fibre. Until the early 2000’s, there has been a steady decline of world acreage.
In the 1930’s, the anti-marijuana crusade gained momentum in North America with the passage of an act in the USA that prohibited its use and circulation. Canada followed suit in 1938 with the passage of the Opium and Narcotics Control Act. This was basically the end of hemp production in North America until the mid 1990’s. Hemp varieties with low THC(delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) levels have been developed, and in March of 1998 the ban was lifted, permitting the production of hemp under license with Health Canada. Canada has adopted a THC level of 0.3 per cent as the concentration that separates non-narcotic from narcotic cultivars. Most varieties being grown in Canada today have originated in Eastern European countries. In the past few years, Canadian adapted varieties have been registered and are becoming available. In Canada, Industrial Hemp is viewed as a new alternative crop, that compliments prairie crop production rotations. It breaks the traditional crop disease cycles affecting cereals while offering enhanced cropping profits for farm businesses.
Industrial hemp is a high volume renewable source of quality fibre. The fibre is well suited to for supplementing or substituting non-renewable sources of fibre, used in big market products such as paper, insulation, biocomposites, or in the horticultural industry. The full plant utilization of hemp and flax crops has a high potential in the emerging bio-economy.

Manitoba Industrial Hemp Industry

Manitoba growers have been quick to see the potential of the crop after industrial hemp was licensed for production in Canada. Hemp grows in Manitoba in a wide variety of climate and soil types, making it ideal for areas of the province that do not have the option of some of the longer season crops like beans and sunflowers.
Manitoba Farmers have been very innovative in growing, and in particular, harvesting the crop. A crop that can be up to 10 to 12 feet tall has some challenges at harvest time. Producers have made many of the necessary equipment modifications at the farm level to overcome many of the obstacles.
The Industrial Hemp Industry is a new industry in Western Canada. Existing Manitoba grain processors include Hemp Oil Canada (Ste. Agathe, MB), Manitoba Harvest (Winnipeg, MB), and Hempco (McGregor, MB). These companies primarily crush industrial hemp grain for oil, de-hull for the nut, protein powder, flour, milk and other products. Other grain processing companies using Manitoba hemp grain are located in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec.
Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers Coop Ltd. (PIHG) in Dauphin is a grower directed Co-op that has a Manitoba plant breeding program that has Manitoba/Western Canada adapted varieties available for grain and fibre production. They have dedicated growers prepared to grow hemp for either grain or fibre. PIHG also facilitates contracts for growers.
Fibre processing is in the development stages in Manitoba. At present the Emerson Hemp Distribution Company is the only company that processes raw hemp fibre into specific useful components. Plains Industrial Hemp Processing (PIHP) is currently under construction in Gilbert Plains, Manitoba and should be operational in 2013.
Manitoba grain production is summarized in Table 3. The data was taken from Manitoba Crop Insurance seeded acreage reports. Table 3 indicates the total acres licensed each year by Health Canada. The industry has grown by about 20% each year. The increased production has been in response to the growing demand for grain and processed products. 2006 saw an acerage jump due to the increased contracting, high yields, economics and non contracted production. 2007 saw a drop of acres due to the carry over inventory and the positive economics of producing other more traditional crops. Acres were in demand in 2012 and contracted by processors. This data is created in November of each year and may be subject to change.

Table 3: Manitoba Industrial Hemp Acres  

Year Acres in Manitoba1 Ave Grain_Yield per acre (Lbs.), MB1 Licensed acres in Canada 2
2001 1,307 487 3,250
2002 1,498 560 3,778
2003 5,776 560 6,750
2004 4,348 264 8,721
2005 11,910 302 24,030
2006 29,865 578 50,767
2007 4,268 458 11,569
2008 2,452 506 8,049
2009 4,875 665 13,760
2010 8,959 247 26,800
2011 11,352 553 38,828
2012 15,709 795 56,543
1 - Source: Manitoba Management Plus Program  2 - Source: Health Canada


Industrial hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa L. This annual herbaceous plant with a slender stem, ranging in height from four to fifteen feet and a stem diameter from 1/4" to 3/4". Hemp is a member the mulberry family. The innermost layer is the pith, surrounded by woody material known as Hurd. Outside of this layer is the growing tissue which develops into hurd on the inside and into the bast fibers on the outside.
Stem Cross Section
The stem is more or less branched, depending on how densely the crop is planted. When sown thickly the stems do not branch. The leaves are of a palmate type and each leaf has seven to eleven leaflets with serrated edges. The strong taproot penetrates deeply into the soil. However, if the soil conditions are unfavorable, the main root remains short, and lateral roots become more developed.
Hemp Root
Industrial hemp flower types are described as monoecious and dioecious. Monoecious plants have the male and female flowers on the same plant. There should be only a small amount of male flower on the bottom of the flower head.
Dioecious plants have male and female flowers on separate plants. After pollinating, the male plants die.
Hemp produces many different ratios of intersexual plant types that can increase rouging requirements.
Monoecious Head Male Head
The Sengbusch Classification system defines five degrees of monoecious forms: Type1, 80-90% male flowers; Type 2 60-70% male flowers; Type 3 40-50% male flowers; Type 4 10-30% male flowers; Type 5 less than 10% male flowers. The second and third types are considered ideal for monoecious cultivation. The predominantly male (1st degree) and predominantly female (4th and 5th degree) types are removed before flowering. 20-25% of self-pollination takes place in monoecious hemp. The methods developed by R. von Sengbusch and H. Neuer (1943) are the foundation of the breeding technology for monoecious hemp.
Presently in Canada, the grain industry is driving the development of the hemp crop. The basic hemp seed product is the shelled seed, sometimes referred to as the "hemp seed nut." The other major hemp food products are hemp seed nut butter, which resembles peanut and other nut butters, cold-pressed hemp seed oil, hemp seed flour and protein powder. These basic products can be consumed alone or used with or instead of other grains, seeds, nuts, and oils in any appropriate recipe.
Pressed Hemp seeds are approximately 30 to 35% oil by weight. The seed cake is about 25% protein. The hemp seeds also have marketable protein and fiber profiles that add to its overall profitability. Hemp seed contains oil that is of interest for its nutritive properties, including a favorable balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, and relatively high contents of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and antioxidants. Hempseed oil is also being used in various cosmetic products and could potentially be used in industrial applications such as inks, paints, and fuel. Hempseed meal has recently found a use in the brewing of specialty hemp beers.
Hemp oils are also gaining favor in health care market because the oils significant amounts of unsaturated fatty acids that make it ideal for and health care.
Industrial hemp is a new crop to Canada that lends itself to the agriculture industry by being rural based and has the potential for total crop utilization for grain and fibre processing. The fibre because of its bulky nature and cost of transportation lends itself to developing processing and value added industries, which in turn will enhance the development of rural infrastructure.


Industrial hemp was licensed for cultivation in Canada in March of 1998 under licenses and authorizations issued by Health Canada.
The passage of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) in 1997 provided the legislative authority to allow the commercial production of hemp in Canada. The Industrial Hemp Regulations, License applications, guides and further details are available from the Office of Controlled Substances. 
Licensing under Health Canada guidelines tightly controls industrial hemp production. All hemp in Canada must be grown from certified seed, licensed and be low in THC (delta - 9 - Tetrahydracannabinol). All varieties are testing well below the 0.3% maximum limit. Licensing requirements prohibit replanting of bin run seed by producers.
Hemp regulations are administered by Health Canada’s Office of Controlled Substances (OCS). Persons carrying out any activity involving hemp must be licensed. Possession of hemp plant parts or products without the appropriate license is a criminal offence. Exceptions to this are mature stalks without leaves, branches or flowers, and non-viable seeds.
A license is issued for one calendar year for: cultivating, importing, exporting, processing, distributing, possessing, plant breeding, analyzing, and research.
Producers applying for an industrial hemp license to cultivate hemp will find the complete licensing application on the Health Canada Website.
Along with an annual license, each year a criminal check is required. These are available from your local RCMP detachment at a cost of $10.00. Consent can also be given to Health Canada to obtain this check directly as part of the annual application.
Health Canada will not license cultivation of less than 10 acres, except in special circumstances. The location must be at least 1 km from school grounds or other places frequented by persons less than 18 years of age.
Growers must give the G.P.S. (Global Positioning System) coordinates of the location where they plan to grow hemp. This means that G.P.S. coordinates are required to define or outline the location - i.e. if the proposed field is rectangular in shape, coordinates for the four corners are required. "UTM" format is preferred to degrees-minutes format for recording the G.P.S. coordinates. 


Contact Health Canada for detailed licensing requirements.

Send completed license applications to:

Office of Controlled Substances
Head, Industrial Hemp Section
Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch
Address Locator #3502A
123 Slater Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa ON KlA lB9
E-mail: Health Canada


THC Sampling And Analysis

As part of the license requirements for growing hemp, producers must provide proof that their hemp crop has a THC level of less than 0.3 %. This is done by hiring the services of a person approved by Health Canada as a hemp sampler. A list of approved samplers is available from the Health Canada’s Office of Controlled Substance website). It is the responsibility of the grower to make sure the crop is sampled if it is not on the Health Canada exempt list.

The sampler must follow the Health Canada guidelines outlined in Guidance on Sampling and Analysis of delta-9 THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) in Hemp to collect samples, dry them and submit them to an approved Laboratory for analysis. The laboratory analysis determines the level of THC found in the crop sample and provides a report to the grower.

Market Potential

The industrial hemp industry is presently driven by the expanding grain industry. Fibre markets and processing capability is being developed but at present there is not commercial processing and markets available.
There are numerous companies in Manitoba that contract hemp for production of food and body care products. Food products include oil, dehulled hemp seeds or nut, milk, flour, toasted hemp seed, coffee, butter and protein powder. Body care products include shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion and lip balm.
Overall, Growers should proceed With Caution as the market place is small but growing. Contracts are recommended to ensure a market and an economical return. Based on research and producer experience, we know we can grow this crop and grow it well in Manitoba. While the market is developing, both prices and potential acreages for the near future remain limited. It must be emphasized to prospective growers that they must apply for a license or they will not be legally able to grow hemp.

Cost Of Production

Cost of production will vary with individual operations and circumstances. Cost of production for all crops (including hemp) can be downloaded from the MAFRI website. These are guidelines that will help you compare hemp to other crops you might be growing on your farm. In the end it is important to replace these budget costs with your own farm costs to evaluate the potential and impact on your own farm operation.
Commercial hemp grain contract price ranged from $0.75 to $0.90 cents a pound for clean grain. Organic production price is generally 30 to 40% higher depending on the contractor.



Provincial Agricultural Websites 

Manitoba Industry and Contractors

Industry Organizations, Research and Resources


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