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3rd May 2017, UK

EU industrial hemp booms

The cultivation area for industrial hemp within the EU is now the largest it’s been since the second world war, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) reports.

Hemp is a multi-purpose crop with a considerable amount of its fibre being converted into nonwovens for use in composites, as well as insulation material.

Hemp cultivation area in the EU in 2016. © EIHA

In addition, the plant’s shivs – the woody inner core of the stem – are used for animal bedding and construction, while hemp seeds have a high nutritional value and can be consumed raw or pressed into hemp seed oil, which has an excellent and unique fatty acid profile. Both seeds and oil are used for human food and animal feed. The non-psychotropic Cannabinoid CBD is an interesting pharmaceutical material and food supplement ingredient also derived from industrial hemp.

Between 1993 and 1996, the cultivation of industrial hemp was legalised in most EU member states and others have followed. In 2011, the EU’s cultivation area fell to its lowest value since 1994 at around 8,000 hectares, but has subsequently grown rapidly to reach more than 33,000 hectares in 2016.

The EIHA anticipates expects further growth in the next few years.

The main cultivation areas are in France, the Netherlands, the Baltic Countries and Romania. In recent years, many new European countries have started or expanded their hemp cultivation, mainly to produce more hemp seeds for the health food market.

The hemp fibre sector is also expanding, driven by increasing demand from the automotive industry.

Investments and market growth are especially high in non-psychotropic hemp extracts and for the Cannabinoid CBD, which is used in pharmaceutical applications as well as in the food supplement industry. Here, a patchwork of regulations in Europe is a barrier for faster market growth.

All of these topics will be discussed at the biggest event on industrial hemp worldwide, the 14th International Conference of the European Industrial Hemp Association, which takes place from June 7-8 in Cologne, Germany.

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