Global Hemp Market

At present, hemp is cultivated for commercial or research purposes in at least 47 countries. Canada, China, Chile, France, and North Korea are currently the largest producers of hemp while the USA is the largest importer of hemp products, obtaining most of its seed and fiber from Canada and China, respectively.

Hemp acreage in Canada and the European Union countries reached record levels in 2017, nearly 140,000 acres and about 90,000 acres respectively, which could put global acreage at more than 330,000 acres.

The EU has an active hemp market, with production in most member nations. Production is centered in France, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Romania. Many EU countries lifted their bans on hemp production in the 1990s and, until recently, also subsidized the production of “flax and hemp” under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Most EU production is of hurds, seeds, fibers, and pharmaceuticals.

China is another major producer, mostly of hemp textiles and related products, as well as a major supplier to the United States. In 2016, China’s hemp was grown on about 20,000 acres. FAO data also report hemp production in Chile, China, Iran, Japan, South and North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Turkey. Other countries with active hemp grower and/or consumer markets are New Zealand, India, Egypt, South Africa, Thailand, Malawi, and Uruguay.

U.S. Hemp Legalization

America is the world’s leading importer of hemp, partly because federal law prohibits U.S. farmers from growing it. In June 2018, the U.S. Senate passed its 2018 Farm Bill, including provisions to legalize hemp, which would make hemp legal for the first time since the 1930s. The bill would remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively legalizing the plant federally and allowing it to be grown, processed, and sold as an agricultural commodity. Individual states would be authorized to draft their own regulations governing hemp cultivation.

U.S. Hemp Industry

The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) reported total U.S. retail sales of hemp products of nearly $700 million in 2016. HIA claims that U.S. hemp retail sales have increased by about 10% to more than 20% annually since 2011. Much of this growth is attributable to sales of hemp-based body products, supplements, and foods. Combined, these categories accounted for more than two-thirds of the value of U.S. retail sales in 2016.

Hemp Business Journal has also reviewed sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products, and estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2017 to be at least $820 million, including hemp foods (17%); personal care products (22%); textiles (13%); supplements (5%); hemp derived cannabidiol or CBD products (23%), consumer textiles (13%); industrial applications (18%); and other consumer products such as paper and building materials accounted for the remaining 2% of the market.

Hemp imports to the United States – consisting of hemp seeds and fibers often used as inputs for use in further manufacturing – totaled $67.3 million in 2017. Although hemp imports have declined from a record high of $78.1 million in 2015, U.S. hemp imports have steadily increased since 2005 when hemp imports totaled $5.7 million.

From 2016 to 2017, the number of acres licensed for hemp cultivation in the top 10 hemp-growing states (Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont) grew by 140% – while the number of hemp producers doubled over the same one-year period.

The number of hemp producers in Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont more than tripled in 2017, while Minnesota, New York and North Dakota saw growth of 533%, 425% and 600%, respectively.

Of the top 10 hemp-growing states, Kentucky and Colorado accounted for 81% of total acres registered for hemp production in 2016. Though both significantly expanded their hemp programs in 2017, they now account for only 64% of total acres registered for hemp production.

Excluding Colorado and Kentucky, the average number of acres licensed for hemp production was 374 in 2016; in 2017, average hemp production acres stood at 1,787 – a 377% increase.

U.S. CBD Market

Hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) is projected to be a billion-dollar market in just three years in the United State, according to a new report by Brightfield Group.

Hemp Business Journal estimates the total CBD industry – including both hemp and marijuana-derived sources – grew to $291 million in sales in 2017 representing a 37% growth rate. The hemp CBD market has reached an estimated retail value of $145 million in the United States alone, and a 55% compound annual growth rate over the next five years will cause the market to crack the billion-dollar mark.

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