Hemp or industrial hemp, typically found in the northern hemisphere, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. It is one of the fastest growing plants and was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.
Hemp has fallen quite low compared to its heyday in the 19th century, when it was used in shipbuilding, mainly for rope production. For a while, it was considered a strategic resource for any country with a navy powered by sails.
5. The Netherlands
Hemp production: 6,614 tons annually
It shouldn’t be too mind-blowing to discover that Holland, the land of cannabis coffeeshops, also happens to be among the EU leaders in hemp production. Hemp output here has risen dramatically, to 6,614 tons annually. However, there’s concern that insufficient cropland will limit output, so Dutch companies like HempFlax have begun farming operations in Romania.
4. South Korea
Hemp production: 14,000 tons annually
Second only to China in worldwide hemp-fiber production, South Korea produces 14,000 tons of hemp annually. Hemp originated in Asia, and its versatility allows it to grow both upland and in paddy fields. However, regulations have hindered the expansion of hemp agriculture in South Korea, which is fueling a domestic demand for hemp seed and fiber from countries like Canada.
Hemp production: 4,385 tons annually
South America’s most prodigious producer of hemp, Chile also sets the pace by hosting the continent’s largest hemp trade fair. Chilean hemp production measures about 4,385 tons annually, and the nation ranks as the world’s third-most-important producer of hemp seed.
Hemp production has a long history in South America, with Spain encouraging cultivation, due to huge quantities of ropes needed for its fleet. In Chile, hemp has been an important industrial plant since the Spanish landed almost 500 years ago, and has found such a place in their culture that many Chileans have been surprised to learn that cańamo and marijuana come from related plants. Many local farmers wonder how a plant that once served for so much and be made into so many useful products for living and working on the farm, could turn out to be of the same species as marijuana. Debate exists in Chile as to whether we should continue confusing legal hemp with it’s criminal cousin marijuana. Chilean farmers recognize that there are industrial hemp varieties, and also there are marijuana varieties, and that they are as different as night and day. Chilean law still respects this difference and there have always been provisions allowing for legal cultivation of Cannabis as hemp.
In present-day Chile there are very few hemp farms, but there is a concentrated effort preparing for a resurgence in hemp cultivation and new hemp industries are being developed. Many of the recent developments have been in response to the international demand for hemp prducts. Much of the work is centered around assuring the propagation of acceptable non-drug varieties and new product research and development. Pristine natural climate, rich soils, and long agricultural tradition make Chile a natural place for a resurgence in hemp cultivation.
Hemp production: 48,264 tones
Although France has been cultivating hemp for the past millennium, the country has recently begun to explore the industrial, environmental, and economic potential of the cannabis plant’s course, resilient fiber. With almost 50,000 tons of hemp produced in 2013, The French are the front-runners in hemp-seed production, accounting for a whopping 59 percent of the global total. France also produces the lion’s share of Europe’s pulp and paper, the most important hemp market in the EU, accounting for over 50 percent of fiber applications. French hemp cultivars are suited for grain and fiber production, the specific varieties that industry trends demand.
Hemp production:44,000 tons annually
The farmers, scientists, and government in China have been quietly revolutionizing the hemp industry with incredible progress. This move has been done with such careful attention to detail, that China — a country where marijuana possession might garner the death penalty — has become a dominant power in the cultivation and production of hemp and its many derivatives. Right now, China is the producer of approximately half of the world’s legal hemp, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
In the provinces where hemp production is legal, growers of the plant sell stems to textile factories to produce high-quality fabrics. As well, the leaves of the plant are sold to the pharmaceutical industry for medicine while the seeds are sold to food producers to make various snacks, oils, and drinks.The planet’s leading cultivator, China has (wisely!) never banned industrial hemp. The country produces approximately 44,000 metric tons annually and is number two in hemp-seed production, accounting for 38 percent of the global total. China also leads in producing and exporting hemp textiles and related products. It’s the primary supplier of hemp products to the United States and has secured over half of the 606 hemp patents recorded worldwide.