Senator Victor Boyhan has called on the government to encourage the growth of hemp in Ireland, following the release of a report on the production of fibre crops by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).
The publication is a report on a consultation process that was carried out on the potential for growing fibre crops in Ireland and whether or not they have a viable market.
It found that hemp can be successfully grown in Ireland and to grow it would offer a diversification and crop-rotation opportunity for farmers whilst delivering environmental benefits.
However, it also found that while significant opportunities do exist within the construction sector, the growth of fibre crops for the purposes of fibre production only is not currently viable in Ireland, as these types of materials are low in value.
To scale up this market would require a significant capital investment, stable markets and collaboration with all stakeholders in the supply chain.
“While the outcome of this consultation does not support the viability of fibre crops such as hemp in Ireland, it is a matter for the industry to address and bring forward a proposal containing viable options for consideration”, the report concluded.
However, Senator Boyhan, who has previously raised the topic of hemp growth in Ireland, has stated that hemp has many other uses and benefits, which should be considered.
“Hemp can be used in construction, marine construction, car manufacturing, paper, food, animal bedding, clothing, drinks and in the health, pharmaceutical, biofuel and cosmetics industries.
“Hemp seeds are particularly rich in healthy fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids [which] are known to improve heart health by reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides.
“Hemp oil, which is derived from seeds, is used in health supplements, personal care, cooking and also in industrial usage such as linseed oil in paints,” he added.
Growing hemp is currently prohibited by legislation in Ireland unless a specific license has been granted by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).
Statistics from the DAFM show that between 2016 and 2019 there was an increase in the area of hemp sown in Ireland. However, the area under hemp decreased by 77% between 2019 and 2022, from 316ha to just 72ha.
In contrast, hemp production continues to rise across the EU according to Eurostat, with cultivation of the crop increasing from 19,970ha in 2015 to 33,300ha in 2021, with France accounting for 55% of this.