The United States Department of Agriculture opened up new avenues for the hemp industry to study the potential of the international market.
This week, the USDA’s Market Access Program, through the Foreign Market Development Program, announced the allocation of funds to dozens of entities, from the Florida Tomato Committee and the California Strawberry Commission to the American Peanut Council. One of those entities, the Food Export Association of the Midwest, was awarded more than $10 million in FY21 Market Access Program funds, of which $200,000 is allocated to the National Industrial Hemp Council to “market promotion activities to benefit the hemp industry,” a USDA spokesperson told Cannabis Wire.
“The National Industrial Hemp Council will coordinate with the Food Export Association of the Midwest on developing and executing these hemp market promotion activities,” the spokesperson continued.
The NIHC told Cannabis Wire that they intend to spearhead market research and trade facilitation with an emphasis on hemp markets in China and Europe.
Specifically, NIHC wants to help hemp exporters find new markets “to meet buyers” and to “do market access.”
“Market access is often the secret sauce, because when you’re working with foreign governments, foreign countries, and even with the US government, they’re trying to figure out how to negotiate so that they can smooth trade. And that obviously depends on both countries coming at that with a unified voice,” Kevin Latner, NICH’s senior vice president for trade marketing, told Cannabis Wire.
The program funding will run January to December, and there are restrictions on what grant recipients can do. For example, they can’t promote products that are illegal in foreign countries or unregulated.
“In terms of why we chose China, we have done a fair amount of research looking at sort of what is happening in the market,” Latner said.
Latner added that NIHC’s interest in Europe stems from the region’s experience producing hemp for fiber, and the number of technology solutions that have emerged. For example, some companies are using hemp as a substitute in the automotive industry, and also as a substitute for fiberglass insulation.
“The Europeans have been producing for a long time,” Latner said.
In China, the industry has also focused on fiber, Latner said, adding that he estimates a $1 billion hemp industry, and opportunities with China involving exporting hemp, hemp fiber, fabric, clothing.
“We know that there is interest in the medicinal aspects of hemp in China. We know that there is lots going on with CBD and other types of cannabinoids in Europe. And we believe that we need a robust multi-use product, whether it’s fiber or grain-focused, in the United States, and we can’t rely only on the oil-based products to have a successful product. So that’s sort of how we see the world,” Latner said.
NIHC, Latner said, wants to use the funds to build relationships and partnerships.
“We’re representing the industry. And so we’re looking to partner with the farmers, processors, retailers that are looking to build international trade. So we’re excited about that,” Latner said.