Following the successful passage of the Industrial Hemp Bill in the National Assembly last Monday, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha said the cultivation of industrial hemp will make way for newer and more lucrative industries while boosting the economy.
With Regions Six and 10 earmarked for the initial cultivation, Minister Mustapha explained that in addition to the soil type being suitable for hemp cultivation, the economic activities in those two regions were severely affected following the closure of two sugar estates in Region Six as well as the closure of the Toucan Connections Incorporated Call Center in Linden.
He said that contrary to some of the misinformation that only selected persons will be allowed to cultivate hemp, Minister Mustapha explained that anyone who meets the criteria can get involved in the cultivation of industrial hemp.
“The bill clearly states that anyone can apply for a hemp license for planting or manufacturing. There are certain criteria that they have to satisfy, one of those being that the application would have to be submitted with a criminal background check, have an active lease, and be involved in a share-cropper agreement, among other things. So, anyone can get involved, especially those small-holding farmers because it is a very lucrative crop. Young people can also get involved because this will create new opportunities for anyone who gets involved in hemp cultivation,” he stressed.
In terms of ensuring best practices are followed, Minister Mustapha explained that the Bill stipulates that a regulator body will be instituted to oversee the budding industry.
That body will comprise representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, and Home Affairs; the Guyana Forensic Laboratory, and other related institutions. The regulatory body will employ specialists who are capable of providing the necessary guidance to potential hemp farmers in that regard.
Minister Mustapha also said that there was room for young people to get involved in the cultivation of hemp under the President’s ‘One Guyana’ Initiative. He explained that similar to the Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme that was launched in January 2022 which saw young people being given the opportunity to cultivate high-value crops using smart agriculture practices, hemp cultivation is also being considered.
With the establishment of this new industry, Guyana would be poised to tap into the global industrial hemp market which was valued at $4.9 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $10.6 billion by 2025 and $18.6 billion by 2027.
Apart from bringing in valuable foreign exchange to the economy, the cultivation of industrial hemp will also create significant employment opportunities by catering to an increasingly growing and highly desired market demand while at the same time providing for a relatively higher profit margin compared to other traditional commodities.