Hemp group eyes Chinese, EU markets after securing USDA funding for overseas marketing

The National Industrial Hemp Council has set its sights on Asian and European hemp markets after it says it was allocated $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote U.S. hemp products abroad.

Kevin Latner, the NIHC’s senior vice president for trade, told Hemp Industry Daily that the group received word it was selected to take part in the USDA’s Market Access Program, which will help the U.S. hemp sector identify international market opportunities and develop an export strategy.

The program allows U.S. agricultural trade groups, cooperatives and small businesses to partner with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service to share the costs of marketing activities abroad that help build commercial export markets for U.S. products and commodities.

Hemp Industry Daily was unable to immediately confirm NIHC’s selection as a Market Access Program participant; the FAS has not yet published the program allocations for 2021 and has not responded to a request for comment.

Last year, 65 trade groups and organizations netted more than $176 million as part of the program, which matches the funds put up by the selected trade groups to develop or expand market capabilities abroad.

MAP participants must provide a minimum 10% match if the funds are used for generic marketing and promotion; a 100% match is required for the promotion of branded products.

The NIHC’s Market Access Program allocation is $200,000, and the group is expected to match that through industry contributions, Latner said. The funds will be available for use in 2021.

According to Latner, the funds are solely for “export development,” specifically activities that encourage “market access and trade facilitation.” Some examples include:

  • Developing trade policy.
  • Harmonizing standards between countries or establishing international standards.
  • Market research.
  • Participation in trade shows.
  • Organizing trade missions to evaluate supply chains.

The group has established an advisory committee with stakeholders in the fiber, grain and extract sectors to help decide how the funds should be used, Latner said.

Focus on Asia, Europe

The NIHC’s application for the funds proposed a focus on Chinese and Japanese markets in Asia and on the EU common market.

“You go where the biggest opportunities and the biggest information gaps are,” Latner said. “Part of our effort will be to look into what is going on on the ground and to come up with a comprehensive approach.”

He said the way the hemp stakeholders engage with U.S. regulators will play a major role in how successful the industry will be moving its products onto foreign markets.

“If we don’t have a science-based regulatory approach for addressing hemp oil, then it’s very hard for us to go in and press,” Latner said. “It’s not just a foreign lobbying campaign – you have to have your U.S. negotiators also in line, and in order for us to be able to do that, we really need to have our own house in order.”

One major consideration for hemp products on the EU common market is the bloc’s Novel Food Regulation, which currently requires a pre-market authorization for all food products and supplements that contain hemp-derived cannabidiol.

The situation in Europe may also change if the European Commission confirms its preliminary stance that flower-derived CBD should be regulated not as a food but as a narcotic according to its interpretation of a landmark international narcotics treaty.

“The short answer is we’re in the process of coming up with an approach for novel food, and that involves not only understanding what is happening in Europe, but also having a regulatory infrastructure that supports negotiating on that front,” Latner said.

Monica Raymunt can be reached at [email protected]

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