Hemp stakeholders in Paraguay are developing a supply chain based on production that starts with local indigenous communities and ends up in a growing volume of exports.
With a hemp law on the books since 2019, local companies have been advancing rapidly in the manufacture and export of raw materials and finished products, said Lorenzo Rolim da Silva, president of the Latin American Industrial Hemp Association (LAIHA).
The indigenous communities, which historically suffered the worst consequences of drug trafficking and a lack of economic opportunities, are now legally producing hemp for grain and fiber, Rolim da Silva said. Seeds are being donated by local licensed hemp companies and technical instructions on how to grow are being provided to farmers through partnerships between the companies and local government.
“Paraguay once again marks a historic milestone by becoming the first nation in the world to plant industrial cannabis with an indigenous community,” said Marcelo Demp, CEO of Paraguay-based food maker Healthy Grains and Vice President of the LAIHA.
Beatriz Fretes, CEO at health & beauty products maker Better Body Hemp S.A., said supporting small peasant farmers combines business and social responsibility for added value.
“For us as a company it means a lot that our products, which are now being exported to more Latin American countries, have the added value of contributing to a social cause,” Fretes said of the raw materials that go into her line of face creams, moisturizing oils, and other products made with hemp seed oil and other natural ingredients. Indigenous family farmers grow the seed from which those oils are pressed.
“It is very important to achieve the inclusion of indigenous peoples through this type of production, especially in an area that is medicinal plants, which they are more than familiar with,” said Jennifer Snaider, president of Deutsch Import S.R.L., a Paraguayan company that makes teas from hemp leaves and other Paraguayan herbs under the Cannafusion brand, and a peanut butter with hemp hearts, called Nature Seeds. The products are designed and manufactured in Paraguay.
“The impact that is achieved with this inclusion is to recover the culture of sustainability from the indigenous economy, a need and debt that we have had with our ancestors for a long time,” Snaider said.
Demp said Paraguay has also adopted carbon capture validation under U.S.-based SGS, a testing, inspection and certification company that measures the environmental impact of companies and industries.
“We are producing finished products based on non-psychoactive cannabis; we generate a great socioeconomic impact and, at the same time, we are reducing the carbon index in the air,” Demp said – with a goal to make Paraguay the first carbon-neutral country in the region in the next few years.
Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benítez has decreed hemp a “crop of national interest” and the government is helping to shape the country’s hemp sector through incentives and support aimed at commercializing industrial hemp, advancing research, and helping the country’s many small farmers and cooperatives.
Rolim da Silva said advancements in Paraguay signal progress across all of Latin America, where the legal landscape for hemp is still being shaped country by country.
“We expect a lot of interest from international capital to invest in the region since the regulatory frameworks are advancing and adapting,” Rolim da Silva said.