Mid-range prices of hemp biomass were bobbing in a sea of red in the September PanXchange Hemp: Benchmark & Analysis report, but the exchange said it was standing by its forecast that prices for “quality 2021” biomass will rally after the current harvest.
Most growers and processors are knee-deep in harvest right now, and early indications are that yields are better than anticipated. Expectations for that 2021 supply and an existing hemp backlog are fueling the current downward trajectory for biomass prices. Another unknown is when stored supplies will flow into the market, the exchange said.
So where is demand coming from? As also noted in the August hemp report, demand for industrial hemp is strong, especially for non-cannabinoid hemp hurd used in animal bedding and building materials like hempcrete, and supply is relatively limited in that segment of the market.
According to PanXchange’s analysis, USDA’s Farm Service Agency data shows that only 10,747 acres were planted with hemp fiber and grain, compared with 17,177 acres in 2020. Allowing for some acreage underreporting and assuming a 6.9 and 3.3 ton per acre yield, just 51,365 tons of total hemp stalk are expected to be available for processing, they said.
“The risk for scarcity seems to mainly be for hurd,” as its applications have been developing rapidly, the report stated. Demand has already spurred imports of hemp hurd to be used for bedding and hempcrete. The risk of a shortage of fiber also is a factor, but PanXchange notes that after several years of contending with too much supply, a jump in demand in this sector of the hemp market seems like a good problem to have.
Hemp in animal feed: Issue gains traction, but sees little federal action
The long-running debate over adding hemp to animal feed — something that could add to the mix of potential demand — grew a bit more urgent in September as the drought in the U.S. West elevated prices for traditional feed like alfalfa and left producers searching for possible alternatives, the PanXchange report noted. The American Association of Feed Control Officials, a group of animal food regulators, put out a position paper on the issue of hemp in feed last month that urged the Food and Drug Administration to review it on a national level.
The AAFCO paper noted the emergence of animal food with hemp byproducts in the marketplace following the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, and it urged agricultural leaders, lawmakers and industry members “to consider the potential adverse impact of allowing hemp in animal food prior to completing the necessary research and legal approval process that will demonstrate the safety and efficacy of this ingredient.”
In the paper, the association not only advocated for added federal research on the impact of hemp on the health of livestock and pets, but also for the safety of human food derived from food-producing animals. “While research is currently underway, there has yet to be a definitive scientific understanding of the transfer rate of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids into meat, milk, and eggs,” the paper added.
Delta-8 debate continues to percolate
Meanwhile, demand for delta-8 flower is reportedly helping the hemp industry work through its supply overhang. As JLN reported last March, the hemp flower has large concentrations of non-psychotropic CBD, but the demand for the smokable hemp flower is mostly associated with the practice of coating it with delta-8 THC, the ingredient that gives users a mild high.
The FDA has sprung into action on that score. Last month it published “5 Things to Know about Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol – Delta-8 THC,” warning consumers that it had “serious health risks” and that “delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context.“
Photo of drying hemp by George Place, N.C. extension director.