Hemp is a multi-purpose crop, delivering fibers, shivs, seeds and pharmaceuticals.
The benefits associated with hemp are endless. A number of products, which are used by people every day can be created from hemp. These products include, but are not limited to the following:
- Paper products: Hemp can be used to make paper and it only takes a couple of months to grow. Hemp is environmentally friendly. It is naturally acid free and can be recycled up to 7 times (normal paper can be recycled up to 3 times). During the process of converting hemp into paper, millions of pounds of toxic pollution are not released into the air.
- Clothing: Hemp can be used to make clothing. One acre of hemp produces as much material as 2-3 acres of cotton.
- Building materials: Hemp can be turned into a variety of building materials (i.e. fiber board, carpet, stucco, cement blocks, insulations, and plastic). You can build a wall out of hemp that is rot free, pest free, mold free, fire resistant, and will last 500 years. You can also make biodegradable plastic out of hemp.
- Gasoline/Fuel: Hemp can be turned into fuel that can be used in your car today. This is done by pressing the hempseed and turning its oil into a biodiesel that is not only completely biodegradable, but also smells better and is cleaner for the air. You do not need to alter your vehicle to use it. Hemp, however, is not the best alternative for fuel because it takes a lot of hemp to make one gallon of gas.
- Nutrition: Hemp can be used as a supplement for nutrition. Hemp is high in protein, contains essential omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, potassium, and dietary fiber.
Between 1993 and 1996, the cultivation of industrial hemp was legalized in most EU member states, others followed later. In 2011, the cultivation area decreased to its lowest value since 1994 (ca. 8,000 ha), but increased continuously in the years 2012 to 2016, to finally reach more than 33,000 ha in 2016. Today, the cultivation area for industrial hemp covers the largest area since the second world war.
Today, hemp is grown in approximately 30 countries. China is the largest hemp producer and exporter in the world and is responsible for an estimated 1/5 of total global hemp production. Other hemp producing countries include Canada, France (the largest producer in the European Union), Spain, Austria, Australia, and Russia. The United States imports approximately $600 million of hemp products each year, but hemp can only be grown in states that have approved pilot or research programs.
EU countries planted hemp on about 33,000 hectares in 2017, and the number of fields dedicated to growing hemp has grown steadily over the last five years.
In North America, where a hemp consumer market is already primed, hemp food and health products make up about 35% of all hemp-based goods sold. Meanwhile more and more states are getting ready for the full opening of the USA market for hemp agriculture, processing and consumer sales – indicating a need for massive investment.
In Asia, where it all started, China is working to restructure its world leading hemp industry while India appears on the cusp of returning to hemp as a major crop within the next 12 months. In both countries, significant investment is needed for restructuring (China) and re-establishing (India) traditional hemp markets.