Ecuador is one of the latest countries in South America to legalize industrial hemp. However, instead of investing heavily in the mad grab for CBD market share, the country’s government is looking to use hemp to feed its already thriving shrimp industry.
Already a leading producer of shrimp, Ecuador is looking to hemp to replace corn as a cheaper food source. Shrimp farmers now rely on corn to feed their crops. The industry has been on the hunt to find an alternative for some time. Prices for corn are high, but farmers aren’t willing to plant it, opting for more profitable crops like cocoa.
Exports for shrimp in 2019 topped 600,000 tons, making the small country the top exporter in the world. In total, 56% of those shrimp were shipped to China. The industry was set to grow even bigger in 2020 until COVID-19 struck.
The Ecuadorian government is focused on building a program that will support the country long term. They see CBD as a risky gamble with a lot of competition already in the market. They see the value in turning away from what most countries are doing and what will benefit their own domestic industries.
Hemp is being looked at as a possible replacement to sugar cane. With global consumption of sugar dropping as people become concerned about their health, the question of what to do with vast swaths of flat land is now at hand.
The biggest challenge right now isn’t government regulation, but hemp itself. Most of the cultivars on the market have been bred to thrive in a northern climate. The crop struggles with a 12-hour daylight cycle year-round.
Columbian scientists have been working this issue for years, having access to hemp for several years already. They are close to breeding ideal plants, and Ecuador will rely heavily on those seeds to jump-start its own industry.