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N.C. Tobacco Farmers Look To Old Plant For New Cash Crop

Posted October 9, 2002

— A plant that looks like marijuana is bound to give drug agents a big headache.


, which resemble its cousin, marijuana, is a crop many tobacco farmers may turn to.

The 4,000-year-old plant, which is native to Africa , is used to make treeless paper and termite-resistant lumber.

"It grows extremely well in the soils here in eastern North Carolina. It's the same type of soils that tobacco grows on and cotton grows on," said farmer Bert Nimmo.

Currently there are about 4,500 acres of kenaf in the state. The plants are 10 to 14 feet tall and drawing the attention of farmers looking for a new crop.

"I've been a farmer all of my adult life and just evolved into this," Nimmo said.

Nimmo and other farmers can consistently grow 10,000 pounds of kenaf per acre. Each plant produces two raw products.

"You've got the bast fiber, which is long, stringy fiber used primarily in the production of automobile interior car parts. Then you've got the core material, which is the inside of the plant. This will lend itself to the animal bedding market," he said.

Nimmo and a group of investors are building a large processing plant near Snow Hill. They are betting new kenaf products will take off. Nimmo said new products, which he is not yet ready to talk about, could hold the most potential.

If some of those new products are as successful as people think they might be, kenaf may become as much a household word in North Carolina as tobacco is in the state.


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