Costa Rican Agro Sector Trusts the Country’s Potential to Produce Hemp Despite Government Doubts

    Opportunities not only for planting but also for processing, competitiveness and the possibility of reaching new markets

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    While the government continues to question the law that would legalize the use of hemp for industrial and food purposes, the country’s agricultural sector defends the country’s potential to take advantage of the niche market.

    Opportunities not only for planting but also for processing, competitiveness and the possibility of reaching new markets are part of the points where recognized leaders consulted all agree.

    They are Juan Rafael Lizano -businessman, former president of the Chamber of Agriculture and former Minister of Agriculture and Security-, Francisco Muñoz-current president of the Chamber of Agriculture- and Guido Vargas -general secretary of the Union of Small Agricultural Producers-.The three mentioned not only opportunities but possibilities to face the fears under which the Government froze approval of the law.

    Lost opportunities

    Juan Rafael Lizano, for example, mentioned that there are more and more products made with hemp, including even car parts. According to him, opportunities are already being lost.

    “There are American companies interested in coming and putting plants here and buying the hemp that is produced and processing it here, which would give many people a lot of work,” he said.

    He also lashed out at the doubts from the point of view of security and argued that the supposed MAG studies where problems for the plantations would have been found are still unknown.

    “It seems to me that this will be controllable, they will have to put in place controls, some people will have to work on this, reviewing the plantations. Although the two plants are very similar, there must be some way to differentiate them,” he said. “There are states in the United States where marijuana is prohibited and yet they are great producers of hemp,” he added.

    Competitiveness and accessibility

    Francisco Muñoz, for his part, stressed that there are several areas where the country could grow.“It could bring us a great deal of help to the rural area, not only because of the planting, but we hope that industrialization will also be established to help us with employment and the development of our rural and coastal sector that is so abandoned,” he explained.

    In addition, he stressed that although there is competition, this is not the first product where Costa Rica must earn its space.”Our competitiveness is tough, but we have crops that compete with Colombia and Ecuador, such as pineapples and bananas,” he said.Finally, Muñoz alluded to the issue of technology as a fundamental input for the country to take advantage of the opportunity.

    Adequate assistance

    Guido Vargas agreed with that last point. According to him, with adequate assistance, micro and small producers could take advantage of the law.”It seems to us that it is a good production opportunity,” he said. He explained that a boost would be required in terms of financing, technical assistance, research and opening of markets.

    Companies from the United States and Ireland had already initiated consultations for possible investments in Costa Rica in the event of eventually legalizing hemp.

    Government gets tangled up with hemp

    Although the legalization of hemp was one of the few concrete proposals by President Carlos Alvarado for economic reactivation in 2020, the plan ended up getting complicated.Throughout the process, ministries such as Security, Agriculture and more recently Health, the Presidency and the Foreign Ministry expressed doubts.

    Last Monday, a week before the expiration of the term to veto the norm, several ministers listed the criticisms.Specifically, the Minister of Agriculture, Renato Alvarado, spoke of studies that, according to him, detected some products in the fields. According to his speech, there could be “false expectations”.

    The documents were not presented but according to him it is about “agronomic difficulties”. These would cover diseases and problems for industrialization.To this he added that the market is already taken over in terms of mass production by countries such as China and Colombia. Given this, Costa Rica would compete for added value.

    “We are clear that if the problems contained in the law are not resolved in a diaphanous and clear manner, neither can we as the Ministry of Agriculture continue investigating,” he said.

    More doubts and little clarity

    Together with the opposition of Minister Alvarado, the Government exposed that of other leaders.The Minister of Health, Daniel Salas, spoke of doubts about the doses. Security, Michael Soto, pointed out that he would have trouble differentiating one bush from another.

    The Minister of the Presidency, GianninaDinarte, was not able to clarify whether they will veto the law or not, this despite the fact that the term expires next Monday.According to the Government, the idea is to present “improvements”, of which dates or scope have not been specified.

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