Hemp industrial park in Ukraine aims to create production cluster

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Officials in western Ukraine have launched a project to develop a hemp industrial park by retrofitting an old flax plant they say can lead to development of a “modern cluster of technical cannabis cultivation and processing.”

The project, “MA’RIJANNI HEMP INDUSTRIAL PARK,” is to be based in the village of Rizhanni in the Zhytomyr Oblast, 140 kilometers west of Kyiv.

Developing such an industrial cluster could revive the tradition of hemp textile production in Zhytomyr, but the initiative also strives to attract small and large companies developing such products as packaging and biodegradable towels, high-quality paper, insulation and building materials, nonwoven mattresses and biomass pellets, according to Michel Terestchenko, a long-time hemp advocate in Ukraine and majority shareholder of the Volodarsko-Volyn Flax Mill.

The 12,000 sq. m. factory-and-warehouse facility is expected to open in October 2024.

For entrepreneurs

“This is a very good project that will promote the reconstruction and European integration of Ukraine, which will create an alternative to supply from China,” said Terestchenko, and is “for all Ukrainian entrepreneurs who want to come and work on cannabis products on-site, being sure of a good supply of basic raw materials.”

The Military Administration of Zhytomyr region, and local municipalities are participating in the project.

Terestchenko started promoting hemp initiatives in Ukraine when he relocated from France to Hlukov, his ancestral city, in 2002, starting a hemp and flax farming operation in 2008. He gave up French citizenship after the Maidan Revolution in 2014, taking up a Ukrainian passport. He later prioritized the creation of a local hemp economy when he served as Hlukov’s mayor from 2015- 2020.

Stubborn persistence

The Ukrainian hemp industry has stubbornly persisted in the face of severe challenges brought on by the war, struggling to source fuel and work out logistics, with some ports blocked and overland routes out of the country clogged.

Many projects in the works were stopped as Ukrainian citizens fled the country with their savings. Hemp plantings were expected to drop from roughly 3,000 hectares (7,500 acres) in 2021 to between 2,000-3,000 hectares (5,000-7,500 acres) last year.

Long-term, stakeholders say Ukraine needs both co-financing and high-quality technology transfer from partners both domestic and global.

Only hemp grain and fiber varieties can be grown and processed in Ukraine, under annual licenses handed out by the federal government and a THC limit of 0.08%. That super-low limit, which compares to 0.2% THC and 0.3% THC limits observed in most parts of the world, means Ukrainian farmers are limited to Ukrainian hemp varieties, roughly a dozen of which are listed in the country’s official registry of plant varieties.

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