“I don’t know where Paraguay will get hemp seeds for 50,000 ha. In a year”
Hanna Gabrielova highlights that industrial cannabis stands out as a high-protein food demanded worldwide, however, Paraguay should be cautious in the development of its agricultural program.
Alquimia SA invited the Czech expert, Hana Gabrielova, to share her experience and recommendations regarding the current interest of producers in participating in the first agricultural campaign of industrial hemp in Paraguay. But first cleared some doubts with Ultima Hora.
UH: Could industrial cannabis replace the illegal cultivation of marijuana?
Yes, because legal production gives security to the farmers and their families. Besides, they already know the plant, although it is another variety. However, everything depends on the Government, which must provide all industrial knowledge. Not everything depends on the farmers, it is important to take into consideration the importation of seeds and the processor of cannabis.
UH: In the first campaign, Paraguay wants to reach 50,000 hectares of planting. How can that be achieved?
Being able to find the volume of seeds that the Government intends in a year, it is a little bit ambitious. If Paraguay, wants to start with 50,000 ha next year, I don’t know where it will get the seeds, because practically all the producers import from Europe, which will not have the capacity to distribute the seeds in such demand around the world in a single year.
UH: How should we begin to work on this project?
A pilot plan and commercial development must be made. It is not something that can be done in one day and the next it can be done. In addition, if you want to multiply the seeds, you have to pay a patent to the owner of the variety that the country needs. Everything takes time. It is a revolutionary proposal of the Government, but the program is not ready, it is a very large proposal, but currently there are no details, which are very important.
UH: But could the campaign begin in March or April 2020, as the Ministry of Agriculture intends?
Maybe, but depending on the seeds available. In addition, so far there is only one company licensed to import in Paraguay, which has no direct relationship with the seed breeders (seed producers), so they can only import and distribute, but cannot multiply. I would like to work justly for the multiplication of seeds, to develop the study that determines the type of plant that we want to grow in Paraguay.
UH: Which countries are the main producers of hemp?
China is around 100,000 hectares; Canada, 60,000; Europe, 50,000; United States, 40,000, and Australia has about 5,000 hectares.
UH: Regarding the cost of production, can we talk about an estimate?
It is difficult to say, because it depends on the type of use and the type of hemp that will be cultivated. In general, it can cost three times more than chia at the beginning, because it is a zero investment in machines for harvesting and processing. They can match costs in about five years.
UH: What is the best thing to extract from hemp?
First, the peeled seeds that are added to any type of food or shakes. 90% of the food market in the United States is peeled seed, known as heart hempts (heart of hemp), followed by edible oil and then pellets (agglomerated material) that are ground to powder. These products have between 30 and 50% protein.
UH: What markets can Paraguay aspire to?
In addition to using a part in the local market, you can send to Asia and Europe, which buys seeds from Canada and China, but in the latter case it is not as requested because its product is not completely organic. In the case of Paraguay, you can take advantage and export along with chia and quinoa seeds.
UH: When could we compete with soybeans and other grains?
Hemp can replace soy. We have very good experience in our farm, where we have 100,000 pigs to feed and since organic soybeans cost seven times more than GM, we use what is left of the process of cleaning organic hemp seeds because it has high protein that helps monogastric animals (with a simple stomach). Imagine, 80% of world soybean production is destined for animal feed, mainly for pigs.
UH: Are there genetically modified varieties of industrial hemp?
No, so far there is only naturally. But we are talking about its industrial use, I cannot say that they do not exist in laboratories that work for other purposes.
UH: How can this item help to improve the quality of life of small producers?
First of all, they can use the seeds to feed themselves, because of their high level of nutrients, make homemade oil and flour for their meals. You can also get 30% fiber and 60% hemp from the stem, that farmers can process through a cooperative. Hemp can be used for the construction of houses, as it was done in Nepal. It can benefit all farmers who want to build or improve their homes and protect them from heat or cold.
UH: How is hemp processed for the manufacture of houses?
Hemp (crushed cane) is mixed with water, lime and a special preparation that can be imported or used with red sand, although in this case the type of sand must be investigated. They can also use hemp for animal beds.
UH: Finally, what do you recommend to the Paraguayan Government to move forward based on real objectives in the production of hemp?
Make a program, a pilot plan with people who are interested and have knowledge on how to work with small producers in logistics, because hemp after harvesting has to dry, clean, do some processing and that if it is not done in a given time you can lose quality. Some conditions must be seen to develop hemp food markets locally. There are a lot of things to be done before saying this year we will have 50,000 hectares. If in three years Paraguay reaches 10,000 hectares, I would see it as a success. Paraguay is not the only country in the world that starts growing hemp, however, other countries already have experience in how to regulate the market. Finally, the authorities must have an open mind to listen to people who know how to work with hemp.