The future looked bright for hemp farmers, but the demand for CBD didn’t follow at the expected levels.
Delta-8 and smokable flower are the two products keeping hemp framers alive. The regulatory loophole that has allowed delta-8 to be sold legally is also causing legal confusion.
Delta-8 is a cannabis product that can be derived from hemp, but still give the consumer a light psychotropic experience. Some states have issued restrictions around the product, while others haven’t addressed it at all. Either way, the demand has been a blessing to hemp farmers who planted lots of acres in 2019 expecting a surge in CBD products, only to see the market contract and prices plummet.
Hemp Benchmarks reported that after rising 4%in May, the average per-kilogram price for delta-8 THC distillate fell 1% in June to $1,215. “Notably, both the low and high ends of observed transaction data — $900 and $1,650 per kilogram — were up compared to May.”
In Georgia, Reginald Reese of Green Toad Hemp Farm told Hemp Benchmarks that delta-8 THC was here to stay. “The beauty of it is, Georgia refused the [delta-8] ban,” he said. “We have the right as licensed hemp growers to use every part of that hemp.” Reese also told Hemp Benchmark that he believes efforts to ban delta-8 THC are part of a “full-court press” from the businesses participating in licensed, state-legal marijuana industries, which do not want the competition.
Smokable Flower Grows
The other product that has been welcomed by the farmers is smokable flower. The Benchmark reported that as of June 2021, the number of square feet registered for indoor or greenhouse hemp production, which is typically for the purpose of producing smokable CBD flower, is up significantly relative to last year. “Hemp Benchmarks has documented over 168.2 million square feet registered for indoor or greenhouse production. This figure is up 328% compared to over 39.5 million square feet recorded in June 2020 and up 85% from over 90.8 million square feet ultimately documented by the end of last year.”
It seems farmers are leaving the outdoor growing and focusing on indoor growing in order to fulfill smokable flower demand. The Benchmark report documented that smokable CBD Flower has maintained its value in the U.S. hemp wholesale market better than perhaps any other hemp-CBD product. “Flower grown indoors or in greenhouses also typically commands a premium price compared to that cultivated outdoors.”
The Benchmark report said that smokable CBD flower saw its average price decline in June after cresting above $300 per pound in May. “Despite some reports of still-stagnant demand for CBG, the price for smokable CBG flower rose 15% in June to average $326 per pound, exceeding the price for its CBD counterpart. The significant increase in the assessed price for CBG flower this month follows an over 50% jump observed in May.” This shift away from biomass and towards flower farming could potentially stabilize the biomass market. A reduction in supply could help wholesale prices.
The problems affecting hemp crops this season could end up helping reduce the glut of hemp inventory. Excessive heat and drought in the western part of the U.S. have affected hemp farmers. Wildfire threats and water reductions have also conspired to challenge hemp farmers. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it seems grasshoppers love warm, dry weather.
Last year, farmers fought grasshopper infestations and it looks like this year conditions are ripe for an even bigger outbreak. The Hemp Benchmarks June report noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is said to be taking steps to mitigate damage to crops and rangelands by spraying pesticides in areas where infestations are likely to occur, including roughly 3,000 square miles of Montana, which is home to significant hemp production, primarily for grain.
Less Hemp Acreage
Hemp Benchmarks reported that there is less hemp being grown as farmers head into the 2021 season. Several reasons have caused the less than stellar outlook for the market. A glut of biomass and CBD caused a plunge in prices reducing the profitability of the crop. Farming more mainstream products have become a better investment. The hemp market has also been affected by a lack of regulatory guidance has also caused farmers to back off from planting more acreage.
Hemp Benchmarks said it has documented the following hemp production licensing and acreage data for 2021:
- 8,298 licenses issued (down 8% from 9,066 counted in June 2020; down 58% from 19,799 ultimately documented for 2020);
- 107,702 acres registered for outdoor production (down 55% compared to 236,732 acres documented in June 2020; down 75% from 429,300 ultimately documented for 2020).
It seemed that almost every product on the retail shelves had some form of CBD in it. Food, beauty products and supplements popped up on every retail counter. The future looked bright for hemp farmers, but the demand didn’t follow at the expected levels. Thousands of CBD companies sprang up overnight and the flood of products created a confusing and competitive landscape.
A new Brightfield Group report says that the CBD industry has lost more than 1,000 players in the past 12 months — some through corporate consolidation and others to bankruptcy. Hemp Benchmarks also quoted farmers who said that there was a lot of low-priced inventory on the market due to bankrupt companies. Earlier this year the Phoenix Business Journal reported. that Integrated AG, the parent company of Integrated CBD, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 20 and disclosed over $20 million in outstanding debt.
Despite all the negative news, last month California-based Kadenwood, a privately held CBD consumer packaged goods company, completed a $30 million cash Series B capital raise. The company said it will use the money to buy advertising and acquire more companies. Kadenwood said the raise also includes a $20 million media campaign to raise brand awareness, bringing the total value to $50 million.