In understanding the opportunity, it is important to recognize the proposed growth crop is a thebaine poppy. It does not have narcotic properties and requires a complex and comprehensive processing facility and process to be converted to any controlled narcotics substance. And, unlike the morphine poppy, thebaine cannot be converted to heroin. World-wide growth in consumption offers a unique opportunity for Canada to develop its own industry with significant benefits to all Canadians.
The Agricultural Opportunity
With minimal input costs and an anticipated return of between $1,500 to $3,000 per acre, thebaine represents a significant cash crop opportunity for western growers. It is estimated there is potential for 25,000 acres to be in production by 2015 without causing any displacement of international agricultural acres dedicated to the thebaine industry due to a growing worldwide demand. And, Western Canada appears to have the perfect natural environment for the growth with warm days and cool nights.
Canada represents 6.2 percent of global demand, Australia 1.4 percent, and New Zealand 0.4 percent. While Canada does not grow or produce poppy for domestic supply, in the last five years, Australia has tripled the acreage of thebaine poppy grown.
The Industrial Opportunity
A processing facility centrally located in the growing zone would be established to convert thebaine into valuable medications to meet the needs of Canadians. A processing facility would clean and package the poppy seed to be sold to bakeries throughout North America. This new industry has the potential to create 300 new jobs, 200 of these jobs would be graduate level positions.
Creating a major pharmaceutical processor in rural southern Alberta would have long-term economic implications, not just for manufacturing job creation but for the ongoing research and technical positions.
The Medical Opportunity
In 2008 Canada’s retail sales of medicines and seeds derived from poppies were in excess of $550 million. From 1989 to 2009, the demand for morphine-based medications increased seven-fold, while the demand for thebaine-based medications increased 26-fold. Global utilization of thebaine increased sharply. In the last five years world-wide poppy production increased by 36 percent, thebaine poppy production has increased by 209 percent. This reflects the growing demand for thebaine and the substances that may be obtained from it world-wide.
Establishing this industry would enable Canada to become self-sufficient in cultivating, and processing thebaine into existing and newly-developed medicines used by Canadians.
The Investment and Trade Opportunity
Canada would become the first raw material supplier to the United States, a $6 billion a year market under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Investment will increase in the local economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan due to agriculture and processing facilities, as well as research. And, investment in the Canadian domestic economy will increase in pharmaceuticals and medicine.
The Research Opportunity
The development of this industry will also create a centre for excellence for thebaine research at the University of Lethbridge.