Hemp initiative in Ecuador is first to focus on fiber and food

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The Ecuadorian government has greenlighted the country’s first hemp crop under a cooperative initiative among two companies and the Latin-American Industrial Hemp Association (LAIHA).

LAIHA member Green and Growth, Quito, and Nobis Holding de Inversiones, one of the largest holding groups in Ecuador, say they will initially grow hemp on 100 to 1,000 hectares, with fields and processing scaling up, and investment growing to $25 to $50 million starting in 2025.

‘Global commitment’

“Among the main objectives of this initiative is to position the country as one of the economies that join the global commitment to the production of sustainable materials and resources,” said Jaime Gómez, Executive Director of Green and Growth, who noted the operation “will generate hundreds of jobs.”

Growers in Ecuador have primarily cultivated cannabis flowers, which are being exported. The new initiative marks the first effort to develop hemp fiber and grain production for “high-grade materials, such as technical fibers, biochar and other value-added products, for export and stimulation of the national market,” the partners said.

Chinese seeds

LAIHA President Lorenzo Rolim da Silva said some Chinese seed varieties have thrived at latitudes near the equator, in Paraguay reaching heights greater than six meters (about 20 feet).

While the Chinese strains can express THC levels of 0.45 to 0.47%, that’s not a problem in either Ecuador or Paraguay. Ecuador’s limit for THC in plants “on the field” is 1.0%; Paraguay’s limit is 0.5%.

“These plants grow much larger seeds than European varieties and can withstand the heat. Not to mention they are “day neutral” – they only flower after about 30-45 days in the field, regardless of the short-day condition,” Rolim da Silva said. “We grow them in the winter in Paraguay for grain, at under 12 hours light regimes.”

Proven exporters

Green & Growth SAS, established in July 2022, is an R&D company focused on supply chains for sustainable raw materials. The company said it “identified Ecuador as its starting point to carry out its activities in the region thanks to the progress in its legislation regarding industrial hemp and the environmental conditions.”

Nobis Holding, Guayas Province, is an international holding company with assets in agribusiness, real estate, shopping centers, and foods.

“It is very interesting for us to support these projects in the Amazonian countries, where sustainability of production must be greater,” said Karen Viviana Castaño, LAIHA’s director of communications. “Ecuador has experience as an exporter of raw materials; we anticipate that they will be a complete success due to the solid export platform they already have in flowers, bananas and coffee trading.”

Path to hemp

Ecuador set the stage for development of the country’s hemp industry with the release of regulations from the Ministry of Agriculture in 2020. The rules guide such things as seed production, farming, processing, marketing, export and other links in the hemp production chain. 

The Ecuadoran National Assembly cleared the way for hemp when it decriminalized the cultivation and production of cannabis products in September 2019, setting the limit for THC in hemp at 1.0%.

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