Industrial hemp has found a friend in Fiji’s president, who seems pretty keen to get a hemp sector cranking in his country sooner rather than later.
Located in the South Pacific, Fiji is an archipelago of more than 300 islands. Fiji has a population of around 896,000 and while one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, it still has a large subsistence sector and is highly dependent on tourism for revenue.
The agriculture sector accounts for about 10.4 percent of Fiji’s GDP, and its major activity is sugar production. Fiji’s government has been looking at ways of diversifying agriculture – and hemp is a contender.
When Fiji President Wiliame Katonivere opened the country’s 2021-2022 session of Parliament in November, he said the government will put forward a number of bills for consideration in this legislative session – including one relating to industrial hemp. At the opening of the 23rd Attorney-General’s Conference on Friday, the President mentioned hemp again, stating:
“Industrial hemp is proving to be a high-value business, and Fiji must not hesitate from tapping into it. Industrial Hemp has been called a “wonder plant” due to its estimated 25,000 different uses, which include food, fibres, ropes, textiles, paper, and building material.”
President Katonivere said hemp has far-reaching implications, and not only for current government policies and legislation addressing the “illegal use and effects of hemp”. He may have been referring to cannabis more broadly – hemp, by most definitions, has levels of the intoxicating cannabinoid THC so low it has no recreational value.
Establishing a local hemp industry won’t be an easy task said the President.
“It also challenges us to re-examine the current laws and institutional structures supporting the agricultural export industry and develop an all-encompassing institutional and legal framework.”
But according to the Fiji Times, there’s already some progress. Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Dr Vinesh Kumar said his department had already done the research and held consultations with stakeholders. The Department is looking at kicking things off with a pilot project and has identified an overseas partner to work with.
Also reported by the Fiji Times, Dr Kumar said:
“Industrial hemp is different from medicinal hemp. There is a difference and we are not getting into medicinal hemp as it has more THC.”
That’s not correct – there may be some confusion in the explanation. “Medicinal” hemp is grown for CBD (cannabidiol) and can have less than 1% THC; which is the level it appears the Fiji government is considering.
While hemp and marijuana are both cannabis, they are not the same – and at this stage of things, it’s important the government communicates clearly what hemp is and isn’t.
But regardless of any confusion between the two, it’s great to see Fiji getting ready to embrace the crop.