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Hemp to the rescue of poor farmers

Posted on April 12, 2000

By Ken Albertsen, The Nation

Thailand — Here’s a plan that can offer a boost to Thailand’s economy in general and Thai farmers in particular. Sound like a tall offer? The plan is summed up in two words: Grow hemp.

Wait, before the authorities wilt away like fungi in the sun, let them know that hemp is legally grown in many countries around the world. China and Eastern Europe are currently the main exporters. Hemp is about as close to being a wonder crop as one could hope to find. It grows very well on poor soils. Some of the current uses for its seeds are nutritious nut butter, cooking oil, paint ingredients and roasted snacks. Current uses for its fiber and pulp are paper, rope, biodegradable plastic and construction boards. Hemp clothing is strong and soft and is especially popular with young farangs worldwide.

Why am I not surprised that Thailand is “out of the loop” with these innovations? Perhaps the Thai agricultural authorities would rather wait 10 years until they see other countries solidify their market dominance. As you read this, select seed is being developed in other countries. By the time Thai farmers get hip to the trend, they’ll be forced to import seed for exorbitant fees.

The “powers that be” need to put aside archaic fears that hemp is marijuana. Granted the two plants are of the same family, but hemp contains less than 0.3 per cent THC (the “drug” part of “ganga”), so it’s not a drug. One would have to smoke five kilos of hemp to get even a tiny buzz (and a giant headache). Rather than belatedly following the lead of others, Thai authorities could grab the bull by the horns and assist Thai farmers in getting in on the vanguard of this exciting opportunity.

Hemp is a non-drug, high yield (over one ton of oil per hectare), multi-use cash crop whose time has come back around (it’s been a utilitarian crop for millennia).

I am a landholder in northern Thailand and have found outside sources for hemp seed. However, I feel trepidation about importing seed for an experimental plantation because I am unsure about the Thai government response.

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