Poland has jumped into the front ranks of European industrial hemp growing, with about 1,400 hectares (about 3,700 acres) under cultivation this year, according to official agriculture documents, a massive increase over 2014 when just 107 hectares were planted in hemp. Meanwhile, Polish farmland designated for hemp by the agriculture ministry is set at 4,800 ha in light of projected demand. If all those fields went under hemp, it would rank Poland second in Europe to France, which grew about 10,000 hectares in 2014, and ahead of the Netherlands, which grew about 3,000 ha last year.
Pushing the growth is a range of EU subsidies for hemp growing, according to Poland’s Ministry of Agriculture. Those incentives are aimed at supporting rural economic revival in the context of environmental cleanup and economic development through a range of agricultural products including hemp and flax.
The big jump in Polish hemp fields this year follows a fast-growth trend around Europe and worldwide, said Dr. Przemyslaw Baraniecki of Poland’s Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants, who notes his organization is receiving a growing number of requests for hemp seeds, with some queries coming from abroad.
To qualify for the EU money, farmers must cultivate under strict criteria and have a permit from local authorities. National laws also require that only landowners can apply to grow hemp — which cannot be grown on leased land. Additionally, contracts for the sale of hemp-derived raw materials must already be signed in advance of sowing.
Along with the subsidies, Baraniecki said growing demand for the crop, which provides a wide variety of end products, is also a factor in the big jump in hemp growing in Poland this year.
A traditional Polish crop, hemp can be broken down into a broad range of products in the “eco” category — food & beverages, creams and ointments. Some carmakers are using the fibers to make bio-plastic interior car parts, and the fibers are also used in “hempcrete” — concrete-like material from hemp straws, lime and water — for the construction industry. Oil from the seeds is used in medicines.