Here’s why hemp is a unique opportunity within the cannabis sector; and who’s in it on the ASX
Health & Biotech
Health & Biotech
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Hemp is typically considered another part of the ASX cannabis sector but it is forging its own story.
Hemp is a variety of cannabis grown specially for its fibre. It has low levels of THC (the compound which gets you high) and slightly higher levels of CBD (the compound which can help with easing anxiety and inflammation).
Only a handful of ASX cannabis stocks focus on hemp primarily.
But they could reap rewards sooner than their peers as two particular uses of hemp have become prominent recently.
The first use is that of a superfood – a industry with potential as plant-based nutrition rises.
“Hemp is one of those great superfoods with all of the great nutritional outcomes with no fat and incredible replacement in protein – versus some of the traditional proteins,” Australian Primary Hemp (ASX:APH) boss Neale Joseph told Stockhead.
“And from an environmental perspective it [hemp] is also incredibly positive in terms of being carbon friendly. So it’s one of those really great crops.”
Joseph’s company makes hemp-based food products including snack bars. Only yesterday it unveiled a deal with 7-Eleven outlets to stock them – beginning from March yesterday.
While APH already sold them in specialist organic food outlets, the deal is its first with a mass retailer.
The company told shareholders it expects annual sales volumes between $1 million and $1.4 million.
“This move towards plant-based snacking is becoming mainstream,” Joseph said.
“You’ve seen it in a lot of areas, the meat replacement in fast food, and in supermarkets plant-based snacking is becoming more and more the norm.”
And Joseph noted this was no different with 7-Eleven. As a destination visited for snacks, it too was trying to make its options healthier and its deal with APH was part of that.
“We really see an aligning with them,” he said.
The second major use of hemp has been in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
This is a market that has run hot since COVID-19 first broke out and APH and its peer Ecofibre (ASX:EOF) are doing well out of it.
It listed in March 2019 at $1 per share and while it is currently off its all time high of $3.50 – it has never fallen below parity.
Both companies have launched hemp-based face masks and APH also has its own hand sanitiser, in a spray form.
APH’s Joseph said his own companies sales likewise were strong; albeit with a growing imbalance between its key markets.
“I think with Australia’s incredible record in what they’ve been doing managing COVID-19, we’ve seen demand soften a bit here but grown dramatically overseas – so on balance we’re really pleased,” he told Stockhead.
Tasmanian company ECS Botanics (ASX:ECS) is an ASX-listed hemp grower and hemp product supplier including oils and food products.
Having received a licence to grow cannabis in November last year, ECS Botanics is building a major growing facility in northern Tasmania.
Elixinol (ASX:EXL) is another hemp player albeit one with scaled back ambitions.
But 12 months later it was forced to hold a fire sale and is now focused on being a hemp-derived dietary supplements and skincare product seller.
Rounding out the list is diversified cannabis play Cann Global (ASX:CGB) which sells hemp food products and cosmetics. Its hemp division hasn’t had the best year with its Laotian operations being hindered by COVID-19 restrictions and a legal dispute.
However Cann Global also grows and researches medicinal cannabis and has partnerships in Canada as well as Australia, the US and Israel.
At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While ECS Botanics is a Stockhead advertiser, it did not sponsor this article.