The plant’s industrial hemp variety is estimated to have up to 50,000 uses, including cooking oil, dietary supplements and biofuels from its seeds, and ropes, textiles, and building materials made from the fibers. solid of its rod.
Its cultivation in the UK is increasing, but farmers are currently unable to take advantage of the growing market for cannabidiol (CBD) products, widely promoted as having health benefits without the effects associated with the drug. illegal to cannabis.
UK farmers can grow industrial hemp for its fibers and seeds, as long as they get a license from the Home Office which ensures the plants do not contain more than the legal limit of 0.2 pc of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the highly restricted psychoactive substance that creates a “high” for recreational drug users.
But despite these restrictions, the lucrative leaves and flowers that produce CBD have yet to be destroyed – putting growers at a disadvantage compared to other countries that can legally use the whole hemp plant.
One Norfolk grower who is experimenting with the crop is John Barrett, who grows at Hill House Farm in Hedenham, near Bungay, and is a director of the Sentry Farming Company.
He will soon be planting 20 ha of hemp seedlings for this season, which he hopes to expand to 200 ha in the coming years.
“Hemp is a crop with a great future – in a market that needs to grow,” he said.
“As an industry, we need to collaborate more in the market for this, and collaborate with the end user. And the key must be for us as producers to be part of this chain so as not to give our added value.
“I think there is huge potential for culture. There are a multitude of different uses for the fiber, and we can harvest the seed to either market it directly as a healthy food, or you can grind it and extract the hemp oil into the same as rapeseed oil, what a lot of people in Norfolk do.
“But for the CBD element, you have to harvest the leaves and flowers, not the seeds and stems.
“This is what we are not allowed to do. But that’s definitely where we want to be in the longer term, so we need this legislation to be open. “
Mr Barrett said hemp grows well in dry soils and offers an alternative crop to “expand our traditional crop rotation”.
- The uses and market for industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis will be discussed at an online Agri-TechE event titled: “From Farmer to Pharma – and Beyond” on Wednesday May 12th. For more details, see the Agri-Tech E website.