Advocate says patience will pay off for hemp stakeholders in Guyana

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Hemp stakeholders in Guyana say the country’s Ministry of Agriculture is finally moving to set rules that will advance the cause of hemp production.

Long-time hemp advocate Michael Kirton, an executive with newly formed Hempair International, said Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha has assured him a regulatory body and framework are being readied.

“The wave of enthusiasm is sweeping through Regions Six and 10 with eager farmers and potential hemp farmers, youth, young adults and women eagerly waiting for the final green light to commence hemp production,” Kirton said during a forum last Thursday in Georgetown.

2022 Hemp Bill

An Industrial Hemp Bill passed by Guyana’s National Assembly in 2022 called for the establishment of an Industrial Hemp Regulatory Authority (IHRA) but the body has yet to be formed and issue specific regulations. As conceived in the bill, IHRA is to administer licensing, set cultivation quotas and collaborate with the Customs Anti Narcotic Unit in the monitoring of production.

The 2022 Industrial Hemp Bill decriminalized hemp cultivation under a dividing line between hemp and marijuana at 0.3% THC and set a relatively strict basic framework.

The legislation empowers authorities to search producers’ premises and seize property if they are suspected of growing without a permit. Unlicensed hemp operators could be fined up to $500,000 and receive one-year prison sentences.

Also, IHRA board members could face fines of $200,000 for failing to disclose conflicts of interest or for disclosing information that relates to the work of the Authority.

Projects are planned

As Guyana’s hemp legislation advanced beginning in March 2022, the government said it had already staked out two locations to demonstrate hemp’s potential in the country’s Regions Six and 10. At Kuru Kururu near Silica City, new settlements are planned: one to relieve overpopulation in Georgetown, the country’s capital; and one at Mara, an old sugar plantation located in the East Berbice-Corentyne region.

The operation in Kuru Kururu can be organic because “the land has never been touched,” Kirton said when the projects were announced. The initiative in that location is envisioned as a prototype for the development of hemp supply chains in each of Guyana’s ten administrative regions.

Boost for ag sector?

The Guyanese government sees hemp production as a way to create jobs and shore up the agriculture sector, which has seen declines in key crops such as rice and sugarcane – a staple crop that has collapsed by more than 50% in recent years. Estimates hold that 30,000-50,000 farmers are out of work.

Advocates have said that once hemp production is scaled, the country could initially find export markets for some raw products. They see economic benefits not only from hemp farming and processing but also noted knock-on potential commerce in the marketing, banking, insurance and retailing sectors.

Supporters have cited studies they say show that planting 100,000 hectares (~250,000 acres) could create 40,000-50,000 sustainable jobs, bringing economic development through carbon credits and from a wide range of outputs from hemp grain and stalks.

Long, winding road

Hemp has traveled a long road in Guyana after stakeholders first identified its potential more than a decade ago when they suggested a domestic hemp industry could employ idle farmers. The government ruled out the legalization of hemp farming at the time, with the country’s Minister of State rationalizing a continued ban over Guyana’s notoriety as a port for drug traffickers.

Kirton, who has advocated for hemp in Guyana since the beginning, said he had kept the faith that a hemp industry would finally be seeded by the government.

“Some said it will never happen, but this is reality,” he said during last week’s forum. “Many of my friends deserted me. Some told me I would die before I lived to see it.

With reporting by

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