Kazakhstan Hopes to Ride High on Hemp Exports
Kazakhstan has decided to profit from its natural cannabis riches and intends to start exporting hemp products to the Netherlands, Russia and China, TengriNews website has reported.
TengriNews on June 15 cited the Agriculture Ministry as saying that around six square kilometers of industrial hemp were cultivated in the southern Almaty region this year for that purpose.
Before the potheads get too excited over the news, it needs pointing out that industrial hemp contains no narcotic ingredients, so repurposing of these Kazakhstani exports is not on the cards.
KazHemp is the only company in Kazakhstan now officially engaged in sowing and harvesting hemp. The company has said it plants to harvest some 600 tons of hemp seeds and 4,000 tons of industrial hemp stems.
"The plan is to process the stems into 1,000 tons of fiber at a primary processing plant being built in the Kerbulak district of Almaty region … for further use in the textile industry,” the Agriculture Ministry was cited as saying. “The seeds harvested this year are to be shipped to the Netherlands. The fiber will be sold to Russia and China.”
Work on building the processing facility is expected to be concluded in October.
Calls for commercially exploiting Kazakhstan’s naturally occurring bounty of cannabis crops have come from no less a figure that Dariga Nazarbayeva, the deputy prime minister and the eldest daughter of the president. She suggested at a government meeting in August 2016 that the crop could be turned into low-cost paper.
“Kazakhstan doesn’t have its own paper. Production of Kazakhstani paper is a very topical issue, including for printed media,” she said.
While arguing for the practical use of cannabis plants, Nazarbayeva was eager to point out that she had no ulterior motives.
“I hope people don’t start saying I am a druggie. I have never in my life ever used or sniffed… and I don’t even know what marijuana even smells like to be honest,” she pleaded.
Kazakhstan has long battled with its virulent wild cannabis crop, which grows freely in the Chui Valley — a much-beloved part of the region among avid aficionados of the weed. But as Interior Minister Kalmukhanbet Kasymov explained last year, authorities are at a loss to police the huge areas covered by the plant.
“Of course, covering all 140,000 hectares (140 square kilometers) is not possible. Cannabis grows all over the country. So we have to decide what to do with it. Either destroy it or use it for economic development,” Kasymov said.
Sniffing an opportunity, KazHemp last year planted test crops in the four regions of Kazakhstan to work out which soil would provide the best yield The Almaty region proved to have optimal conditions. While only six square kilometers of hemp were cultivated this year, the company’s plan is to increase that to 40 square kilometers in 2018.