Hemp cultivation for the medicinal and cosmetic industries has always been a complex sector both from a regulatory and cultivation systems standpoint. These very specific technical needs have required significant efforts both from growers and from the industry as a whole.
If there has ever been a particularly challenging year, then 2020 most certainly deserves such an award, as during this year the sector slowed down by the global pandemic, COVID-19. The productive dynamics of this sector have been disrupted in terms of supplies for growing phases and of sales to the public. The difficulty of sourcing quality substrates and specific products for cannabis has put many producers around the world in serious difficulty. Growers have seen their production compromised by the stagnation of the global economy. Many suppliers of substrates and other agro-inputs are experiencing significant delays in their normal international logistics due to the government lockdowns in many countries of origin such as India or Sri Lanka in addition to further shipping delays of the transport of goods due to the interruptions to the global trade.
In addition, UK companies are currently facing a new challenge for their businesses, namely Brexit, which represents a substantial regulatory change in the exchanges between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Getting through hard times
Despite the uncertainties in the market, there are companies that are managing to surf this troubled moment by forging new successful business relationships. We spoke with Christen Richards, Group General Manager of Alderney Essential Oils Ltd, a company that despite these difficult times, is working to successfully reach its cultivation goals together with the multinational supplier company Projar.
“Initially we struggled to locate substrates as the usual suppliers in India and Sri Lanka shut down due to government mandates and labour shortages,” Christen explains. “By chance, our team member Sam recalled meeting Raúl Pérez of Projar at an industry trade show and rang him up to see if he could help. After some back-and-forth, Raúl helped us settle on a substrate mix that was suitable to our needs. Together with Projar, we worked tirelessly to find multiple shipping options that could get the freight to us in good time at an economic rate; fantastic teamwork!”
Since there is a widespread inconsistency with regards to the quality of substrates in the cannabis industry, it is crucial to select a supplier that is able to support its clients at all costs. “As we said, Raúl and his team in Projar worked to find a substrate that could be had on short notice,” she continues. “During the manufacturing, both companies leveraged their contacts to sort out the logistics side of things. Projar provided no shortage of options for shipping and they were open to considering non-traditional routes if it meant on time arrival.”
Communication is key
Of course, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t based on a critical aspect: communication. “Communication is key,” she points out. “Raúl and his team were always available for a call or at the very least a message to say they would be in touch soon. Projar provided a bespoke service in terms of the manufacture of substrate and they have continued to check in on us from time to time to ensure we are happy with the product and offer further assistance.”
Christen continues to explain that his substrate plan had to be reconsidered because of the difficulties arisen due to the pandemic. Yet, such a change seems to have been utterly beneficial, after all. “We believe that although we did not invest in the substrate we initially had in mind (100% coir), the alternative provided by Projar was fit for purpose and dare we say improved overall yield and we are pleased with the productivity we have seen this season.”
Although this year will surely not be remembered as the most brilliant in human history, there were some glimpses of hope with regards to the recovery of the economy, and the cannabis industry will play an important part in it. “We feel very positively about the future of the industry,” Christen observes. “We appreciate that there may be some short-term setbacks as we learn to do business differently and adapt to major political change (Brexit) or global pandemics (COVID-19) but we see growth on the horizon. The CJEU have recently ruled CBD is not a narcotic, the UN Single Convention have rescheduled cannabis as a less harmful drug and the United States House of Representatives have taken the historic step in voting to decriminalize cannabis. We believe that as the legislation continues to ease and evolve the sector will grow, and at a pace!”
In the face of this unprecedented crisis that the world is experiencing right now, we believe there is room for business growth through collaboration between producers and suppliers, as is the case for Alderney Essential Oils Ltd and Projar.
Relying on suppliers who are committed to personal relationships and the resolution of customer needs is essential to be able to create growth synergies.
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