Hemp production coming to Belize

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Whenever we hear about cannabis on the news, it is usually followed by bad news, typically an arrest or remand for persons who have been found with it in excessive amounts. But there is now a strain of the cannabis sativa plant, which will now be getting airtime. This is hemp, which is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed. Given all these usable products, and its lower concentration of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than cannabis which is used as a drug, hemp production is under consideration in a number of Caribbean countries.
It is one of the more interesting topics on the agenda of an ongoing CARICOM meeting which is looking at the exploration of the business of cannabis and hemp production in the region. The Officials at CARICOM’s Agricultural planners Forum are exploring a cost benefit analysis of our options in a session titled “The Business of Cannabis and Implications for Caribbean Agriculture.”
Shaun Baugh, Program Manager for Agriculture and Industry Development, CARICOM Secretariat, says that regional experts have been brought in to make scientific presentation on the use of cannabis for medicinal, rather than recreational, purposes. He says that during the forum, the business of cannabis and hemp production will be explored as well as its implications for the region. He considers that cannabis is a growing industry, “the new green gold” but we cannot simply start hemp production without first considering the region’s collective position and possible opportunities. “We have to be able to say to our people, our member states, this is how we’re going to approach it, these are the opportunities,” he said. When considering its medicinal benefits, which opens the region to a billion dollar industry, we have to be able to take charge and to learn. Hemp, on the other hand, requires large plots of land, which countries like Belize, Guyana, and Suriname have. According to Baugh, hemp production presents an opportunity for our region in a very unique way, especially in countries where traditional crops are facing challenges. “Our traditional crops are experiencing some challenges now and hemp uses a large amount of land. So we need to now look at what are the real opportunities that can be had from that and in particular, the larger member states that have the landmass. We are talking about Suriname, we’re talking about Belize here and Guyana and also Jamaica to a lesser extent. How can these member states participate in this growing and new industry?”, he said.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Jose Alpuche, says that regulations for the growth of hemp have been passed in Belize. He says that a committee has been empaneled which will be considering applications for the cultivation of the plant. So far, he says, there have been three applicants which are being considered but that they are joined by a number of others, who have queued up to produce hemp. “It’s an inter-ministerial committee considering applications so we believe in the very near future registrations will be granted to those three applicants,” stated Alpuche.