By Brian Houlihan
Ireland like many of its European counterparts has seen its hemp industry grow steadily in the last few years. In 2017 the total amount grown in Europe was estimated at 42,500 hectares. This was a 28% increase of the amount grown in 2016 which was estimated at 33,000 hectares.
In the past year alone there has been a huge increase in the amount of hemp being grown in Ireland according to the latest figures supplied by the HPRA. The figures reveal that there has been a 200% increase in the amount of hemp cultivated. There’s also been a 41% increase in the number of licences issued for growing hemp.
According to the email I received 24 licences have been issued to grow 229.83 hectares (567 acres) of hemp this year. As I revealed last year there were 17 licences issued to grow 76.45 hectares (188.9 acres) of hemp. Both increases are great news for the fledgling Irish hemp industry.
A number of factors have likely lead to this increase. The emergence of the Hemp Cooperative Ireland in the past 12 months has no doubt increased participation. Not only has the group attracted new farmers but many of its members who grew hemp previously are expanding their acreage.
Likewise a number of established hemp companies such as Kama Hemp and Celtic Wind Crops are also expanding their operations this year. Meanwhile new companies such as Canabaoil and others are entering the market as interest in hemp continues to grow.
So is this the most licences ever issued in Ireland? While an impressive figure it falls well below the 48 licences issued over a decade ago. Many of those licences were linked to the burgeoning biomass sector. However, the economic crash around this period destroyed many industries and dealt a blow to the emerging hemp industry.
So what’s driving this current growth? There can be no doubt that CBD has boosted the hemp industry across the globe. A largely unknown cannabinoid until a few years ago it has become a household name in many countries. From being a product in niche stores to being widely stocked in pharmacies the growth of CBD has been phenomenal.
While the CBD green-rush is driving the industry forward a note of caution must be sounded. There are growing concerns that CBD could be the verge of being restricted/regulated. Moves towards allowing medical cannabis, the possible grey areas in the laws and people/companies declaring CBD a medicine all play a part.
Nonetheless, the growth in the Irish hemp industry is to be welcomed and long may it continue. Regardless of the future of CBD the hemp plant is here to stay. The industry just needs to adapt to the constant changes it faces and be aware of the other opportunities available.
For now a 200% increase in cultivation area should be celebrated by hemp enthusiasts. Its proof the hard work is starting to payoff.