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Industrial Hemp Facts

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Article by Paul Benhaim

The difference in the growing area of industrial hemp has actually not changed too much. In Europe there is about 15,000ha (37,000 acres) per year producing about 25-35,000 ton of fibre and twice that of shivs (hurd). Though, as you will find at Start A Hemp Business the opportunity is NOW.

The main uses are still in France for cigarette papers. In the ‘new’ hemp producing countries such as the UK, Germany and Netherlands, the main markets are insulation (about 40%) and biocomposites (40%). The main use of biocomposites are for the automotive industries. Other niche applications including the garden markets for non-woven mats. Most seed production happens in Canada. A new (European) decortication* machine located in Alberta is about to begin so they will be making fibres as well.

 The most exciting technology in hemp also comes from Canada – Crailar. This is a biotechnology enzymatic process. About 200 ton of Crailar fibre is being produced per month at this time. This material is suitable for fibre. If this technology continues to succeed there is little doubt this will change the textile industry by producing a cheaper and better quality fibre where hemp will be a major provider. Crailar is working with Hains, one of the largest textile companies in the world. Hains will decide where this technology goes next. Crailar currently imports Hemp fibre from the Netherlands in Europe until they have enough local fibre.

 The Chinese are not so easy to get information about their current hemp activities, however about two years China cultivated a lot of hemp for what was a large deal for the Chinese Army. The army wanted good quality hemp fibre for textiles on a large scale. It is said that at the last moment the army decided not to use the fibre and invest in more weapons instead. Hemp or weapons? So this has left 200,000 ton+ of (apparently high quality) fibres in storage. The Chinese are interested in increasing the hemp industry over there, though due to this recent activity the next few years maybe quiet.

 The main problem in China, like everywhere else is mechanical decortication. *Decortication is the process of separating the bast fibre from the inner core. They have everything else worked out well – growing, harvest, and the creation of great textiles.

 The best decortication machines though are based in the UK and South of France, made by Belgium and German companies. They work very well at about 8 ton per hour. But they are too expensive for the Chinese who are trying to develop their own machinery right now…

 In 2010 the UK has more capability in their decortication facility than they have under cultivation – an excellent opportunities for growers.

 Although most markets in hemp use either the bast fibre or the inner core (shiv/hurd), there are some new hemp building technologies using the whole stalk. The problem for this technology has been with cutting the strong hemp stalk. This has been overcome by the way the Australian’s adapt widely used cutting tools. Another wet process also exists in Germany where they are also making construction materials and biocomposites using silage. There is a similar method for corn and feed in Australia. However, this German method may not be commercial as the process takes a few weeks and requires a lot of storage space. The material has been used in particle board technology – making a great ecological and light material for camping, cars and boats.

 Particle boards can easily be made in any particle board manufacturing plant using the hemp hurd. This has been happening in Europe for over 100 years. The quality of using hemp is excellent, though whilst the price is still higher than normal particle boards it is a question of market demand or niche marketing.


Learn more about infield decortication, hemp plastics and more in my next article.

23 Jul 2010

Last Update: 25 Mar 2011

Article/Information supplied by Paul Benhaim

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.