Although industrial hemp has not yet reached its full potential in Europe, the business is expanding quickly. In reality, the area in Europe devoted to industrial hemp growing increased by 70% between 2013 and 2018. According to EIHA, more than 50% of flowers and leaves from Europe are used to make dietary supplements, such as CBD extracts. It’s interesting to note that hemp fibers had a market up to World War II. Nearly 700,000 hectares of hemp were grown in Russia in the 1930s. Additionally, up to 100,000 hectares each were accounted for by Italy and Yugoslavia. Currently the EU together hardly grows 50,000 hectares. The largest producer at the moment is France, followed by Italy and the Netherlands.
Some European countries are suitable for industrial hemp cultivation. It is thanks to favourable climatic conditions, legal aspects and agricultural infrastructure supporting hemp industry.
Can France be the best choice for industrial hemp in Europe?
The main focus will be on France. The country has a long history of hemp farming and is one of Europe’s major hemp producers. With over 37% of the total surface area set up for hemp production, France accounts for an important amount of Europe’s hemp farming. France has a significant role in hemp growing for a number of reasons.
First off, France has a variety of climates and soil types that make it perfect for growing various hemp species. France’s various regions offer the best conditions for hemp growing, enabling the production of a variety of hemp-based goods. In addition, hemp cultivation has a long, centuries-long tradition in France. Generation after generation has passed down traditional hemp growing techniques, adding to the country’s experience and knowledge in the field.
Furthermore, France has implemented innovative regulations which support hemp cultivation. The French government has taken the initiative to encourage the growth of the hemp industry, providing a favourable environment for hemp farmers and businesses. Additionally, France concentrates on growing industrial hemp for a range of uses, including the manufacturing of CBD, bioplastics, textiles, and building supplies. Because of the variety of products made from hemp, there is a greater market and more demand for its cultivation.
Last but not least, France grows hemp for both its domestic market and for export to other European nations. Europe has seen a rise in the demand for items made from hemp, and France’s good position and well-established infrastructure make it possible to distribute these goods effectively to other European countries.
Industrial hemp in other European countries
But, is France the only country with high potential for hemp cultivation? Let’s look at the map below.
Map from the EIHA’s website: https://eiha.org/about-hemp-hemp-in-europe/?cookie-state-change=1687163908655
So the next idea where to grow hemp is the Netherlands. It is well known for its horticultural and agricultural capabilities. For example, a century ago the Dutch government founded an organisation called Delphy to improve agricultural products. However, their focus switched towards hemp and cannabis only. They have recently developed a platform for medical cannabis for instance. Thus, Netherland’s favourable environment and innovative farming methods make it a great place for the growth of industrial hemp.
In recent years, hemp growing has also increased significantly in Germany. The nation has relevant laws governing hemp cultivation and provides ideal conditions for growth. Moreover, support comes from DHV – German Cannabis Association.
Furthermore, Poland has a long history of growing hemp and has a suitable climate. The country is a desirable alternative for hemp farmers due to its rich soil and agricultural traditions. Moreover, Poland also has organisations that, among others, play a significant role in promoting hemp cultivation. The example is the Polish Industrial Hemp Association.
The cultivation of hemp is becoming more popular in Italy as well. Its climate, especially in the Tuscany and Piedmont regions, offers favourable conditions for the cultivation of hemp. Similarly, Spain’s Catalonia and Basque Country, for example, have conditions that are ideal for growing hemp. Spain has been developing its hemp business and provides a helpful legal environment.
Best European country for hemp cultivation?
Following the above, selecting the “best” nation for industrial hemp cultivation is difficult. Hemp does not have to be a main expected crop for farmers. In some agricultural systems, hemp can also be used as a “soil-clearing” or “in-between” crop. That is another potential application for this crop in many countries. Through a procedure known as phytoremediation, hemp has the ability to absorb toxic substances and pollutants from the soil. As a result, the condition of the soil can be improved by removing heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants. As an in-between crop, hemp can be grown in rotation with other crops to provide multiple benefits such as soil preservation, nutrient cycling, pest and disease break and diversification.
Thus, the decision may change depending on certain elements including the environment, laws, infrastructure, and market demand. Also, it depends what goal the farmer aims to achieve.