Fernando Vargas Pérez, current vice minister of agriculture and livestock of Costa Rica, spoke exclusively with MCN to provide more details about the new regulations that govern the country to demolish some myths and clarify the way for those who want to know more about the regulations and their execution.
What should a company or a person do, if they want to grow hemp or cannabis in Costa Rica?
The first step is admissibility That is when the documents are presented, we review them and see if they comply with what is established in the regulation. For that first process we have 5 days to respond.
The second stage is in-depth study. This is, basically, to check that the documents presented by the administered correspond to what is established in the regulations, and we review the project that he presents. For this there are 10 days.
If these two processes are fulfilled to satisfaction in less than 15 calendar days, the administered will have the proposal reviewed and resolved. In case adjustments or changes must be made, it will be within a period not exceeding 25 calendar days.
How do you acquire seeds and start cultivating?
Once the resolution is already in place, this resolution is passed to the State Phytosanitary Service and the National Seed Office (this process can be simultaneous), the presentation and registration of the project is made, and the seed could be imported, and they can start the sowing process.
What is the accompaniment by the MAG for those who have the resolution of acceptance of the project?
For small and medium-sized producers, who are the “clientele” of the Ministry, according to the law, we would give a process of accompaniment in order to transfer the technical information we have.
A suggestion is also made that to enter a competitive market requires a logistical, productive, and business management level. Therefore, it would be very timely to take advantage of the strengths of working together or together.
In the case of large producers, they already have their technical team, and we make visits to verify traceability.
How would crop post-production be handled?
The market issue is very sensitive. Here we have to start from back to front. First, we must explore the market issue and determine what the objective of our activity is, what we are going to do with the crops and then cultivate.
Planting hemp or cannabis is not so complicated, is what do we do with this product when we already have it harvested? That’s where the critical part is.
We tell people to be very careful, because it’s a good alternative, but let’s do it right.
PROCOMER, COMEX and Cinde will be great allies to explore market possibilities. The call to producers is always to approach these specialized entities.
How do MAG see Costa Rica being competitive in the global hemp and cannabis market?
PROCOMER has said that there is great potential regarding this crop. We see as great advantages the industrial park that the country has, as well as the position worldwide in terms of sustainability and environment. International donors have supported us to strengthen these processes and I believe that these activities can be very well coupled with these processes.
We are strengthening the entire process of organic production and we are a third country of the European Union and Switzerland (it means that this block recognizes the certifications granted by Costa Rica, which greatly facilitates trade management, and lowers tariff costs) and I believe that hemp and cannabis can be inserted in this way.
Is there a specific segment where you see Costa Rica being more competitive? I believe that the issue of health is very important and that there is great potential. I see Costa Rica developing that line very strongly and above all because the market pushes very hard towards that side; Apart from the fact that this line of added value has a higher percentage of profitability.
I do not rule out at all other lines such as textiles and the constructive part. It is a crop that has many possibilities and a lot of potential, but the issue of oils, seeds, and flowers I think will walk much faster than other markets.
What would you recommend to those who want to start growing hemp or cannabis?
First that they use the official sources of the State to guide them, avoid scams and that they can develop a successful project.
Second, that we think very carefully about the objective of the project and that we do not venture if we do not have a solid base from where we want to take our crops, which in this case is an activity that can be profitable and generate labor for the country.
And finally, we ask those of us who are going to be in these new activities to do well from the beginning and responsibly.