Morphologically, Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a broadleaf plant with taproot. Industrial hemp is a distinct type of plant Cannabis sativa L. with delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration less than 0.3% on dry weight basis, as per the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and most of the governments like Government of Canada and Government of Australia. Most of the European Union uses industrial hemp with THC contents as low as 0.2%. The industrial hemp plant has a similar leaf structure as that of marijuana and any value for THC content more than the acceptable value is considered marijuana. Hence, only laboratory analysis are able to distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana and a lack of physical methods pertains.
It is found that industrial hemp plant has more than 25,000 applications including, but not limited to, paper, biofuels, textiles, high capacity batteries, automotive, construction, cosmetic and body care products, food products and dietary supplements.
Industrial hemp potentially has the most widely usable industrial biomass and has the shortest plant growth cycle. For its growth, industrial hemp requires the least amount of nutrients, pesticides and water. Due to this feature, numerous corn and legumes farmers are shifting to cultivating industrial hemp as a way to reduce their water consumption. Industrial hemp is one of the very few plants that can be commercially grown anywhere around the world with the best results observed when it is grown as a rotation crop in the corn fields.
Since 2014, there has been a shift in this industry with the outdoor industrial hemp cultivation outnumbering the indoor industrial hemp cultivation. The individual cultivation sites have increased in size and industrial hemp cultivation using traditional agricultural methods is becoming a trend. With the enhanced agronomic practices, better funded businesses and promising production plans, many players are entering the industrial hemp market. Investments in research and development will innovate newer products and manufacturing technologies, driving the market.
However, a lack of clarity regarding industrial hemp poses a budding identity crisis for the emerging market. Also, lack of uniformity in the acceptable THC levels in different regions around the world may limit the growth of international trade of industrial hemp.
In April 2018, The Hemp Farming Act was introduced to legalize industrial hemp and remove it from the Controlled Substances Act and also make the industrial hemp eligible for crop insurance. Such policies point to a bright future of industrial hemp throughout the forecast period. Extracting cannabinoids from industrial hemp crop is much more complex process than simple extraction. The intricacies are introduced due the complex structure of the industrial hemp plant, involving around 480 compounds including cannabinoids, carbohydrates, terpenes, lipids, fatty acids and flavonoids. The most widely used butane-based extraction is banned in some countries like Canada. However, technical advancements have led the manufacturers to adopt Super Critical CO2 based or Subcritical Ethanol based extraction. These techniques have up to three times more capital cost but a lower operating cost.
On the basis of application, industrial hemp market can be segmented into: Paper products, Textiles, Biodegradable plastics, Automotive, Cosmetics and body care products, Construction Materials, Animal care, Food, Packaging, Pharmaceutical, Others.
After being banned for almost 60 years, industrial hemp was legalized in Canada and since then, Canada has been producing industrial hemp for food. Until 2017, almost 2.2 million square feet of land in the USA was utilized for cultivation of industrial hemp, growing from over 300,000 square feet of land utilized in 2014. For commercial use, industrial hemp is widely grown in Asian countries like China and India and European countries like France, Germany and Russia. North America is expected to be a bigger market followed by Asia Pacific and Europe in terms of industrial hemp volumetric demand.
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Some of the market participants in the global industrial hemp market identified across the value chain include Hemp Inc., Botanical Genetics, LLC., MARIJUANA COMPANY OF AMERICA, INC., HempFlax BV, American Hemp LLC, Boring Hemp Company, Plains Industrial Hemp Processing Ltd., Ecofibre, Valley Bio Limited, Global Hemp Group Inc.