London, Ontario — Ontario is poised to dominate the North American market for hemp products, says the head of the newly formed provincial hemp industry association.
The Ontario Hemp Alliance (OHA) is co-sponsoring Hemp Expo at the Outdoor Farm Show that opens in Woodstock today.
The Hemp Expo — featuring hemp beer, hemp pizza, hemp paper and a myriad of hemp clothes — is part of the OHA’s mandate to increase public awareness of hemp products and build consumer demand, said OHA president David Marcus, who runs a hemp research and consulting firm in Toronto called Hemphasis.
Hemp fibre is a strong, long-wearing material for clothes and industrial uses, he said, adding the hemp seed contains good quality protein and a beneficial oil.
Because growing hemp, a relative of the marijuana plant, is still illegal in the U.S., Ontario could dominate the North American market if consumer demand could be cultivated.
“Ontario is unique in North American in that it is the home of the only two (hemp) fibre processors,” Marcus said.
With the ability to process hemp fibres into textile- and industrial-grade fabric, Ontario has a chance to be first on the North American market with hemp products from clothing to upholstery felt.
“Ontario is taking a leadership position,” Marcus said.
While cultivation of hemp by Ontario farmers has fallen off this year, Marcus said it is a temporary situation, “while processors catch up.”
He said as consumer demand grows, “we’re looking for a surge” in production.
The OHA, which includes farmers, processors, manufacturers, retailers and researchers, was formally incorporated last year and is holding its first annual meeting tonight.
While the OHA sees an advantage in the U.S. stand on hemp production, its Hemp Expo co-sponsor, California-based Hemp Industry Association (HIA), sees legalization in the U.S. as the ticket to substantial market growth.
HIA vice-president Larry Dupry said Canadian investors tend to be conservative when developing new products.
However, if hemp production was legalized in the U.S., a more aggressive marketing approach would likely result and with it greater consumer demand, he said.
Dupry’s Hemp Club Inc. manufactures and wholesales hemp accessories such as hats and bags.
He also has a store, Chanvre en Ville, in Montreal.
The Hemp Expo is part of more than 400 exhibits at the seventh annual Outdoor Farm Show near Woodstock which continues through Thursday.
As many as 30,000 people are expected to attend the show famous for its live demonstrations, side-by-side comparisons of crops and crop protection products and equipment test driving.
Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show
When: Today through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: University of Guelph Research Station near Woodstock.
Admission: Adults $12, youth (six-15) $5, Children under six, free.
How to get there: From London, take Highway 401 to Oxford Road 6 (Exit 222). Head north to Highway 2 and turn right. Follow Highway 2 east until the Woodstock city limits and turn left on Oxford Road 30. Follow the signs to parking lot.
Daily field demonstrations: 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. — skid steer demo; 12:30 p.m. — bale-handling demo; 1:15 p.m. — tillage demo.
Bring a rock: Women are encouraged to bring a rock between the size of an apple and a cantaloupe from the home farm to the Farm Women’s Network tent in exchange for a voucher for a free lunch. During the show, the rocks will be used to build a permanent monument to symbolize the work of farm women.
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