PanXchange® Hemp: Benchmarks & Analysis – June 2019
With the start of the summer, the hemp market focus saw a large transition to cultivation. While many farms have spent the end of May and June preparing fields and planting starts, stories have been popping up that some farms are still yet to complete planting. Erratic weather can be part to blame, however, a lack of quality seeds in the market may preclude some farms from participating in the summer growing season. According to industry partners, many of the quality seed providers are nearing or completely sold out, resulting in those without seeds to look for resellers which inherently carries additional risk.
Preventative measures can be taken to mitigate damage from excess or too little moisture, however, watching weather patterns could uncover areas that would be more susceptible to decreased yields. In particular, the Midwest has been experienced dramatic amounts of precipitation when compared to averages, resulting in historic flooding. While not a major producing area, farms in Illinois have reported heavy rains resulting in crop washouts. Looking at more traditional hemp producing states, Kentucky has seen precipitation ranging anywhere from four to eight inches above historical averages over the last thirty days.
As hemp crops in the ground begin to mature, we’ve been continually asked by producers what’s going to happen with prices at harvest time. Anyone who gives a concrete answer on what way prices are going should quickly be ignored. With hemp being a new crop in many growing areas, and so many variables inexperience affecting yields, the range of price trajectory is endless. That being said, producers should know their options and use information from other agricultural markets to make smart decisions to reduce risk, both from post-harvest losses and maximizing prices. Following other agricultural markets, main harvest should bring a large amount of supply to markets, and with the year-over-year increase in planted acres, less developed storage and market options, and demand growth following a somewhat linear path, prices should see downward pressure at harvest. Farmers have a number of options for post harvest services.
At this moment, finding availability and prices for each of these services for harvest time is a major challenge, arguably harder than finding physical product. Our team received numerous inquiries about providing a solution to bring access and transparency to the services market. Interested parties please contact the PanXchange Hemp Team.
Storing and Preservation Options:
Drying relatively quickly is imperative to preservation of cannabinoids and prevention of molding and other degradation. General sentiment for shelf life of dried and stored biomass is in the range of six to twelve months, depending on process. Producers not currently contracted with post-harvest services should know their options and have a few available to mitigate the risk of losses.
On-Site Drying and Drying and Milling Services:
On-site drying is typically the least expensive option for farmers with facilities (barn, shed, outbuildings, warehousing) from a cash outlay perspective. But proper knowledge of best practices for drying and proper drying limits is still in early stages. We have heard of a slew of creative drying techniques to be tried this year from air drying in tobacco barns to stacking corrugated cardboard in warehouses.
Because the elevator model of localized drying and storage is not fully developed and has seen relatively small investment compared to extraction, third party drying and milling is not available in all areas. Daily volume throughput on these facilities is higher than extraction on a per facility basis, but with sparsity of available facilities, pricing will be extremely variable. Beyond drying the product, there’s choices to be made between hammer-milling, pelletizing, bailing, which all come with unique advantages and challenges.
Extraction & Distillation
While the extraction distillation spaces have seen the most investment in the CBD production supply chain, most facilities and labs have at least some either internally grown hemp acreage or have local producers contract farming. As such, internal production will take priority for capacity utilization for the immediate months after harvest.
Extracting biomass directly to crude oil is the best option for preserving cannabinoids, particularly those who do not have large storage space available but are able to find climate controlled storage. Extracting to crude oil reduces product volume and increases shelf life significantly over biomass. Discounting the volatility of the market, extracting crude oil on harvest reduces your risk of biomass degrading. But availability of spot contracts for extraction in the months immediately after harvest will likely be difficult to find, as facilities will prioritize their own production and contracted volumes over third-party processing. While crude oil processing was a major bottleneck after the 2018 harvest, it remains to be seen how additional acreage planted in 2019 will offset increased processing capacity that has been built out over the same time period.
Without a centralized and efficient mechanism to find pricing for these services, producers are at a disadvantage for how to minimize the risk of product loss and maximize cash flow. Parties interested in bringing transparency to service offerings, please contact the PanXchange Hemp team for more information.