A London-based firm that tracks Europe’s cannabis sector says the region’s cultivation and processing capabilities could soon make Europe quite competitive with North America, especially when it comes to the market for hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products.
But Prohibition Partners warns that the struggle to control Europe’s CBD market will intensify as the big pharmaceutical companies enter the fray.
As part of their just-released, 3rd edition of their European Cannabis Report, Prohibition Partners notes that European demand for hemp has grown significantly over the past several years.
In 2011 only 8,000 hectares (19,768 acres) of farmland in Europe was being used for hemp cultivation. But the region’s hemp crop reportedly exploded in growth by 32% from 2015 to 2016; with 36,000 hectares (nearly 89,000 acres) being cultivated in 2016.
Hemp’s popularity in Europe is due in part to its versatility as a cash crop. The hemp market there has also been receiving EU subsidies for several decades now.
France is Europe’s leading hemp producer and reportedly makes up nearly half of the region’s total hemp production. Estonia, one of the Baltic States, grew more than 3.500 hectares (8,648 acres) of hemp in 2016, making it the second-largest European producer of hemp.
According to Prohibition Partners the overall market valuation for European-grown hemp fiber, stalks and seeds was €45.2 million ($52.7 million) in 2016. Hemp fiber prices for that year reportedly reached €700 ($817) per ton, while stalks came in at €200 ($233)/ton and hemp seed brought in €1,200 ($1,400) per ton.
But another major factor to the growth of hemp in Europe is the region’s medical cannabis market, which according to the report could be worth €55billion ($64.2 billion) by 2023. That’s when European countries are expected to have completed the necessary legislation and infrastructure requirements.
And those numbers do not include the hemp-related revenue expected to come from the region’s secondary markets. The report quotes estimates from several European hemp analysis groups; that the region’s already existing market for CBD pharmaceutical products is worth €2 billion ($2.33 billion).
But as mentioned, Prohibition Partners says the growth of Europe’s hemp-derived CBD market has been hobbled by several disputes. The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) is criticizing some Big Pharma companies for their alleged attempt to restrict the usage and availability of CBD across Europe.
At the same time there’s an ongoing controversy in Europe regarding how to officially categorize CBD.
“With debate over product licensing, and regulated supply and distribution channels,” the report notes, “the availability of qualified CBD products in Europe is limited.”