Article by Heather Rivers, London Free Press
Move over soybean, there’s a leafy new green kid in Southwestern Ontario with a budding profile that’s sucking up millions in investment and can’t lay its hands on enough workers.
One of Canada’s richest farm belts, the area between Kitchener and Windsor is able to grow many things the nation eats, drinks or smokes – and has seen wonder crops come and go.
Tobacco was a money spinner for farmers and a job bonanza for students until the veil was pulled back on that killer.
Emu ranching tempted producers in the late ’80s and early ’90s but the market never took off.
With a huge market in China, garlic and ginseng were seen as promising alternatives to tobacco – but fickle weather, pests and importing of cheaper produce from China has kept local production in check.
The soybean – a modest bean with so many uses – has been called the wonder crop and now ranks as Ontario’s No. 1 field crop worth $1.5 billion a year at the farm gate.
Could marijuana – whose recreational market in Canada is estimated to be worth $8.7 billion by 2020 – be the region’s new wonder crop?
Already, there are 115 licensed producers approved to grow cannabis – the bulk of them in Ontario and British Columbia – with another 588 applicants awaiting approval, Health Canada statistics show.
With just weeks to go until the drug becomes legal Oct. 17 – and with weed stocks at an all-time high and industry giants and others investing heavily in cannabis production – the region could be poised to become one of Canada’s largest marijuana belts.