Europe, Farming, Fiber, News, Seed, USA

Europe looks poised to continue dominance in fiber seed

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By Robin Destiche | Hempoint s.r.o.

While the U.S. has no shortage of CBD planting seed suppliers, fiber hemp varieties are more difficult to come by. That is to say, dependable, certified seed that can be traded internationally under Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) requirements. 


That means most industrial hemp seed varieties for fiber are being sourced from Europe, which has the longest experience in fiber hemp cultivation with varieties that meet requirements of low THC (under 0.3%) required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In the coming years, there is no doubt that Atlantic partnerships will be created to supply the growing U.S. market with hemp for industrial use at scale.

Recent changes in Europe

Europe looks poised to continue its dominance in the fiber hemp seed market after the European Commission agreed late last year to raise the THC limit for industrial hemp in EU member states from 0.2% to 0.3%. 

First, while the new limit isn’t likely to take effect until 2023, the change can be expected to immediately spur research into more advanced fiber varieties.  Also, it is likely to lead to the re-animating of a number of existing high-yield cultivars from northern and eastern Europe that have been dormant because they exhibit THC levels beyond 0.2% (but less than 0.3%). 

Part I: Envisioning a hemp fiber supply chain
Part III: Sourcing hemp cultivation seed from Europe

As the EU’s biggest hemp cultivation seed developer and grower, France is best positioned to reap the benefits of the changes in THC limits, having developed fiber hemp strains throughout the 1980s and 1990s for the paper making and construction sectors, and benefitting from robust research in genetics.

European system

European hemp varieties are trialed and independently tested by government institutions of EU member states for 2-3 years before they can be registered in the EU Plant variety database. Once registered under EU marketing requirements, the registration is valid for ten years. At the end of the ten-year period the custodian of the variety must apply for an extension.

Seventy-two hemp varieties, registered in 12 different countries, are listed in the EU plant variety database, or catalog; four of those varieties are registered in multiple EU countries. Varieties can be registered in one country and, thanks to common EU policy, be grown in another. 

CountryNo. varieties
Czech Republic2

There are an additional 30 varieties on the EU registry that have been deleted for further market use. Varieties can be deleted for a number of reasons: 1) the custodian of the variety no longer wants to maintain the cultivar; 2) the registration deadline is not met; 3) there are differences in the seed material that no longer meet qualifications to be registered; 4) THC amounts are no longer within acceptable levels.

These varieties can be grown in Europe barring any local regulations. Not all of the varieties are commercially available; some are just maintained for research or breeding purposes. Of the total list, only about 25 varieties are in position for commercial scalability.

Growing EU seeds abroad

European growing latitude is from 40-60 degrees north, on average. The northern most variety is Finola, which has a home environment above 60 degrees north, in Finland.

It is important to know how much light the plants will receive during their vegetative cycle. There needs to be a comparison of the hemp varieties’ home latitude with the proposed growing latitude. Additionally, its growing conditions in its home environment i.e., soil, water, pests, disease, etc.

The best way to learn how these varieties will do is to trial them in the proposed growing area. University agricultural research centers are generally interested to help design the trials and collect the data for evaluation. It is a matter of reaching out and cost. 

Trial size crops are different for each buyer based on their capabilities to find the right variety; it is usually enough to grow a few acres.

Robin Destiche is Operations Manager at Czech-based  Hempoint s.r.o., a cultivation seed broker and vertically integrated hemp company that recently marked its 10-year anniversary. His current portfolio includes seed sales, decortication, product development, and partnerships for seed multiplication. He also leads the Tea Infusion unit at Hempoint, which is a leading European supplier of organic hemp teas. Prior to joining Hempoint, Destiche was Business Management Director at U.S. Hemp Brokerage. His past experience includes work in executive leadership in the hospitality industry in the USA.

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