Welcome back to another installment in our History of Hemp series: The Future of Hemp! If you’ve been following along, we’ve already been through the Origins of hemp history and hemp history in modern America. Today we’re diving into the future of the hemp industry and what possibilities it could hold.
Hemp Makes a Comeback
If you’ve been following this series, then you’re already aware that hemp was illegal to grow or sell in the United States until about three years ago. The 2018 Farm Bill finally made it legal for farmers to import hemp seeds, ensuring access to quality seed stock. Further, and most importantly, this bill made commercial hemp production federally legal. Prior to the 2018 bill, there was a 2014 version with very strict provisions enabling some hemp production, but not anywhere near its current scale.
So, hemp production has only been federally legal in the United States for about three years, and already the industry has seen enormous growth. In 2018 the hemp derivatives market was valued at 1,403.5 million USD and is expected to grow at a rate of 23.7%. By 2027, the market is projected to be worth 7,056.4 million USD by 2027.
The Future of Hemp is Global
The United States is not the only country seeing a rise in the hemp market; the future of hemp is trending steadily upward globally, as well. The global industrial hemp market in 2019 was approximately 5 billion USD. By 2026 it is expected to reach 36 billion! Canada alone has seen an annual increase of 25% in hemp acreage.
However, while the US and Canada are seeing an increase in hemp crop planting, not everywhere in the world can keep up with hemp production to support their consumption levels. Therefore, part of the rise of the hemp market is in hemp importing. Places that can’t grow hemp, or simply can’t grow enough hemp, still have the means to manufacture the raw materials.
The Asia Pacific market made up the biggest chunk of the industrial hemp market in 2018. This was due to the large scale of production of hemp fibers in the textile and paper industry. Further, the legalization in the Asia Pacific region for hemp in food supplements has been legalized, and is expected to drive market growth.
Europe is also a quickly growing consumer for the industrial hemp market. These regions have seen steep increases in consumption of hemp seeds as as food, especially in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. Further, continually increasing knowledge about the health benefits and nutritional value of hemp-based food and personal products is expected to keep the market trending upward.
So as the future of hemp expands, the products that are being made with hemp are also rapidly expanding.
In order to create these different products the hemp plant must be broken down into different parts. The stalk of the hemp plant has two parts: the bast and the hurd. The fiber (bast) is very durable, and able to be woven into almost any type of cloth. The cloth made from hemp is much stronger and longer-lasting than cotton made cloths. Additionally, it is hypoallergenic, and naturally resistant to UV light, mold, and mildew.
The fiber and pulp (hurd) of the plant can be used to make paper. In fact, the first paper created was made from hemp in ancient China. Hemp paper does not require the types of intense chemicals that paper made from trees does. Further, as traditional paper ages, the acids of the paper eat away at the pulp. This is why libraries and archives must use much more expensive acid-free papers to keep records; paper made from hemp is naturally free of acid and will last for centuries.
Hemp seeds are a very nutritious source of food. Many cultures have grown hemp for seed to eat as a sort of gruel or oatmeal. The proteins in hemp seeds are very easy to digest and the seed oil is also complete with essential fatty acids, while containing almost no saturated fat.
Hemp seeds are also used for protein in animal feed. The oil from these seeds has further applications in soap, lotions, and other cosmetics, as well as nutritional supplements and medicinal products. With all of these uses for hemp seeds, the future of hemp growth in this market is expected to expand at a rate of 19.8%.
Hempcrete is another significant use of the hemp plant, made from the hemp hurd and lime. With rising environmental pollution around the globe, there is a steep rise in consumer demand for greener building materials. Private houses in European countries are using an increasingly significant amount of hempcrete. Hemp fibers are also widely used in other construction and insulation materials such as fiber board, stucco and mortar, roofing underlay, acoustic insulation, and pipe wraps.
The Future of Hemp & Sustainable Agriculture
Say Goodbye to Monoculture
In traditional and sustainable agriculture practices, crops are rotated through field plots to ensure that one crop type doesn’t deplete the soil’s nutrients. However, modern agriculture and sustainable agriculture are not synonymous. Current agriculture practices favor a monoculture: growing the same high-value crop in the same place year after year (after year). Recently, though, farmers are looking back to rotating crops as an answer to diminishing soil conditions.
Hemp is beneficial in a crop rotation for a couple of reasons. Firstly, hemp has very deep roots. This both helps the plant to hold down the soil present and prevent soil erosion, and to loosen and aerate the soil deeply for the plants that come afterward. Second, hemp produces large quantities of biomass after its growth (matter that returns to the soil, decomposing and creating richer soil). Because of this, hemp is often planted in rotation before a heavy feeding crop, such as winter cereals.
Pesticide & Herbicide Reduction
Most varieties of hemp are naturally resistant to insects and pests. This gives hemp a multi level advantage: harmful pesticides don’t need to be used on this crop, reducing amounts of these chemicals leached into our soil and waterways. To compare, the cotton industry uses up to 25% of the world’s pesticides. Additionally, because of the lack of chemical pesticides, these hemp fields become sanctuaries for crucial pollinators, as well as small birds and animals.
Hemp also makes a wonderful bumper crop; grown in between other crop seasons hemp grows quickly, shading out the bare ground and leaving no room for weeds. This eliminates the need to put down nasty herbicides and weed killers to keep fields from growing rampant between seasons. As an added bonus hemp is a valuable cover crop to grow, whereas most are grown only for soil protection and have no market value, these hemp crops are not only functional, but profitable.
As the world seems to be looking for more sustainable solutions to modern problems, hemp could be just the answer. Hemp grows much faster than the trees which are used to create paper; hemp not only reaches maturity much faster than trees, but once fully matured one acre of hemp yields as much paper as 4 acres of trees in one growing season. Hemp is also a hardy plant, using 50% less water to grow than industrial cotton.
One huge benefit of hemp is its ability to pull huge amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Most plants do this as a part of photosynthesis, yes. However, scientists estimate that for every ton of hemp grown, 1.63 tons of carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, more that trees or other plants of a similar size.
The Future of Hemp Conclusion
We’re excited to see that the future of hemp is looking bright. The world seems to be looking to sustainable alternatives to outdated practices, and we believe that hemp is a part of that answer. As the industrial hemp market in the United States is in its infancy, we look forward to watching it grow, and hopefully flourish.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us. To learn more about hemp, CBD, and Kratom head on over to our blog. And of course, whenever you’re ready to buy some top quality CBD and Kratom products, visit our shop!