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As US Hemp Cultivation Levels Plummet The Established European Industry Continues To Flourish 

DESPITE a huge decline in US hemp industry’s footprint the European industry will continue to grow, say the continent’s leading experts.

Recent figures from the US show hemp cultivation fell to 107,702 acres in 2022, from 511,442 in 2019.

However in Europe hemp’s footprint continues to grow – by over 30% between 2018 and 2021 – and it is expected to continue in this vein for the foreseeable.

Conor O’Brien, a senior analyst with global data and canna-tech firm Prohibition Partners, highlights how European hemp has a well-established pedigree with a focus on seed and fibre production.

“The huge US increase came on the back of the boom in the CBD market, but what happened was the acreage planted was way out of sync with what the market actually required.

“It’s also fair to say that the many thousands of farmers growing hemp for the first time struggled to produce compliant biomass, biomass which failed to meet the specifications of CBD product manufacturers and led to significant downward pressure on prices in the US and overseas.”

Latest European Figures

In 2013 Europe planted 10,260 hectares (25,353 acres). In 2018 some 25,240ha (62,369 acres) were planted and in 2021, 33,400ha (82,533 acres).

Jamie Bartley, the chair of the UK Cannabis Industry Council’s Hemp Working Group, believes its domestic cultivation will be up to around the 1,000 hectare mark this year  – an increase of around 20% on previous years. 

And, that it will see continued growth over the coming years – avoiding the dramatic declines witnessed in the US.

He said: “The European market has been established for some time and has historically been focussed on the traditional uses of hemp – the hemp seed market, construction and textiles and is now developing further to support the low-carbon economy in bio-energy and fuels.”

Jamie Bartley.

The infrastructure to support his non-CBD side of the hemp industry is well-established in Europe, but not yet in the US. 

Lack Of Facilities

Mr Bartley added: “There are some facilities now being developed in the US to support the different uses of the fibre and the shiv. These facilities which support industrial end uses are where the volume for end users will be – not necessarily in the CBD industry.”

The European hemp industry will receive a further boost next year when member states will be able to permit an increase in crop THC levels from 0.2% THC to 0.3%. 

One further factor impacting US hemp production is the deteriorating global economic situation.

Global supply chain issues, post-pandemic – fuelled by Russia’s war with Ukraine – have seen many US farmers return to the to traditional crops such as wheat, corn and soybeans, which have almost doubled in value in recent months.

Prohibition Partners highlight how the majority of European production is in countries such as Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia.

In a soon to be published new report on the continent’s CBD industry – The European CBD Report 2022 – Health & Wellness – its authors say: “This is due to a strong cultural affinity for the production of hemp along with forward thinking policies, suitable climatic conditions and affordable land and labour.“

UK’s Hemp Ambitions

A Government-sponsored examining the potential of the hemp industry, recently published by York University, maps out a pathway to boost UK hemp production from 800 hectares to 80,000 hectares by 2030.

Published recentlyHemp-30’ was funded to the tune of £200,000 by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s £1bn Net Zero Innovation Fund. It recommends exploring the potential for hemp in energy generation and as an alternative to cotton.

This also comes as a UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for CBD Products produced its first recommendations to support hemp and wider cannabis industry.

While the UK waits for the ruling Conservative party to begin acting like a Government it says there are two easy wins which can boost the country’s hemp industry and can be enacted without primary legislation. 

Namely; taking hemp licensing from the Home Office to Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and removing the perverse rules which necessitate the destruction of valuable hemp flowers and leaves.

CBD CEO Michal Takac Shares His Thoughts

Michal Takac, Founder and CEO, Phytopur Bio says: “There is no question that the demand for CBD products in Europe in the UK has increased.  

“All the evidence is that the global trend in the use of plant-based supplements is upward, helped substantially by the impact of COVID. The question is how much of this growth will stick and whether CBD will become a supplement staple. In our experience, this is yet to be fully answered.

“Despite the remaining uncertainty over Novel foods in Europe the market for supplements has become crowded and it appears that the growth in demand has plateaued even fallen.

“As a CMO of CBD products in 2020/21 we saw a huge increase in interest from small companies looking to enter the CBD supplements market with request for tinctures, gummies, capsules etc., this is not the case today and our enquiries are almost exclusively for functional private label topicals which is a rapidly growing market but uses less CBD.

“So while CBD has no doubt been the key motivation for hemp farmers to increase the number of hectares under hemp, a steep reduction in the wholesale cost of CBD raw materials indicates that there is no shortage of supply, so I would not be surprised if the growth in cultivation slowed or even reversed in Europe as it has in the US.

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