European countries have cultivated hemp for hundreds of years. At the moment, it’s estimated that Europe is responsible for up to 25 percent of the world’s hemp production. But the production of hemp is not spread evenly across the European continent. France alone accounts for up to 40 percent of the continent’s hemp production, with at least 20 other states making up the total hemp production in Europe.
Let’s take a look at the strongest European countries for industrial hemp.
France is the undisputed leader of the European hemp production. Between 1993 and 2015, France was responsible for more than half of all the hemp that was produced in Europe. In fact, France was such a prolific hemp grower during those two decades that most of the hemp seeds currently in use have French origins.
The French west-central regions of La Sarthe and La Loire are the best for hemp cultivation. The planting of the hemp seeds usually occurs during the month of May, and the crop is harvested in mid-August to mid-September. There are about 17,000 hectares of hemp planted in France each year.
On average, the hemp varieties that are being cultivated in France yield eight tonnes of stalks per hectare. However, each hemp variety produces different quantities of seeds and flowers, so their total yield can vary.
Estonia is quickly becoming a powerhouse in the European cannabis industry. Since 2004, the number of hemp farms in Estonia has increased dramatically, and farmers in the small Baltic country cultivate thousands of hectares of hemp each year.
According to a report that was published by MGCPharma, Estonia cultivated over 3,500 hectares of hemp in 2016, which is over 900 hectares more than it cultivated in 2015. This growth made Estonia the second-largest European hemp producer after France.
About 90 percent of the hemp that is cultivated in Estonia is exported, most of it to Germany. But the Estonian Organic Protein Cooperation intends to change that. This organisation was founded in 2017, and its mission is to bring the Estonian hemp farmers together to develop the production of hemp oil and hemp protein powder in Estonia.
3. The Netherlands
In recent years, the Netherlands has strengthened its position as a powerful player within the European hemp industry. In 2016, the county increased its hemp cultivation surface by over 600 hectares compared to the previous year, making the country the third-largest hemp producer in Europe.
HempFlax, a Dutch company, cultivated 2,500 hectares of hemp in 2017, and it expects to cultivate over 3,500 hectares in 2020. The company grows hemp in the Netherlands as well as in Romania.
Romania was the third-largest hemp producer in the world before 1989. Back then, its hemp plantations spread over 55,000 hectares. After the fall of communism, the crop became unpopular, and almost no one grew it any more.
In 2011, only 10 hectares of hemp were officially registered in Romania. However, growing hemp became popular again in recent years, and farmers started cultivating it once more. In 2017, there were already more than 1,688 hectares of hemp planted in Romania, over 1,000 hectares more than in the previous year.
Lithuania legalised hemp growing back in 2014. Thanks to the hemp plant’s versatility and profitability, Lithuanian farmers started growing it for its fibre and seeds. The increased interest in hemp led to a quick expansion of the cultivation areas.
In 2014, there were 1,064 hectares of hemp registered in Lithuania. In 2018, the hemp plantations in Lithuania covered more than 1,500 hectares, and the 2019 plantations are expected to cover more than 3,000 hectares.
Italy was the world’s second-largest hemp producer after the Soviet Union in the 1940s. Back then, more than 100,000 hectares of hemp were cultivated on Italian soil. But in 1961, the Italian government signed the convention on narcotic drugs, an act that made hemp very unpopular.
In 2016, Italian farmers were legally permitted to grow hemp again. The plant was initially seen as a more profitable alternative to wheat, but not many farmers were willing to invest in a crop they knew little about. As a result, only 400 hectares of hemp were registered in 2016.
However, the results of those farmers convinced others to invest in hemp. In 2018, over 4,000 hectares of hemp were cultivated in Italy.
Hemp is making a strong comeback in Europe. The plant’s versatility and profitability, along with its ability to regenerate the soil, convinced farmers all across the continent to cultivate it. The increased demand for cannabis-based products will surely lead to more hemp being planted each year.
As hemp becomes more popular and European farmers learn more about it, we should expect to witness a boom of hemp plantations in the following years.