Ireland could be set for a major boom in the hemp and CBD industry as applications for licenses to produce hemp soar. As of July, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HRPA) has received 77 licence applications from people wanting to grow hemp and cash in on the CBD boom.
Applications to the HRPA have more than tripled compared to last year, with just 24 license applications in 2018. The number of applicants has been multiplying exponentially over the last few years, with 2016 seeing a mere 7 applications. Currently, there are almost 1,000 acres of land in Ireland registered with the HRPA for cultivating hemp, however, this number is estimated to rise as high as 5,000 acres.
Interest in hemp cultivation soaring
In June, Irish farmers met with government officials, academics and local businesses at the Premier Irish Industrial Hemp conference to discuss the growing interest in hemp cultivation.
The event was organised by The Hemp Working Group along with national farming bodies like Teagasc, Glasteo and IFA.
With much of the Irish economy reliant on dairy and beef farming, investing in the cultivation of hemp could help the farming industry adjust to the rising popularity of veganism and plant-based dairy alternatives.
James DeMello of organic CBD company deDanú said “Ireland is a gateway to Europe, has globally competitive tax rates and research incentives and a highly educated workforce. This country can compete at an international level and is uniquely positioned to capture a significant portion of the global marketplace.”
DeMello has worked in the Canadian hemp and cannabis industry since 2014 and is now offering contracts to Irish farmers to grow hemp at their new laboratory in Athlone for the production of cosmetics and oils.
While the CBD boom may be a relatively new phenomenon, farming bodies in Ireland have quietly been researching hemp for decades. At the Premier Irish Industrial Hemp Conference, Barry Caslin from Teagasc opened proceedings by highlighting Ireland’s particular suitability to hemp cultivation.
Ireland has the perfect climate for hemp
“Teagasc have been involved in hemp research since the 1960s, and proved the crop can grow well in Irish soil and climatic conditions.” In addition to being particularly suited to Irish soil and changeable climate, hemp is known as a sturdy crop that doesn’t require harsh pesticides to flourish. Dr. John Finnan, a senior research officer in the Teagasc Crops Environment and Land Use Programme described hemp as “vigorous crop that can generally out-compete weeds. This is particularly true of the taller varieties […] We have not used any herbicides, fungicides and pesticides on our research crops.”
As well as cashing in on the boom in popularity of CBD, investing in the hemp industry could position Ireland to capitalise on the growing demand for sustainable alternatives to plastic. Hemp plants can trap up to nine tonnes of carbon dioxide per acre, while the production of traditional PET plastic actually produces up to 3 times its weight in carbon dioxide. Hemp plants can also be used to make biodegradable plastic, which can decompose in less than 3 months.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has also supported the growth of Ireland’s hemp and CBD industry, in an effort to expand the country’s recently launched medicinal cannabis programme. Last month, Harris announced that he had met with Bord na Mona officials to discuss the agency becoming involved in expanding Ireland’s supply of medical cannabis products.