Despite some bureaucratic challenges, hemp fields in Germany continue to increase.
According to a recent report, hemp fields in Germany grew by more than 7% to over 17,000 acres this year despite significant barriers confronting the industry.
Along with the expansion in acreage, the total number of farms cultivating hemp has more than doubled in the past five years. During that time, hemp plots grew from less than 300 in 2017 to 889 in 2022, an increase of 67% (Federal Office for Agriculture and Food).
Demand for hemp food seed continues to rise steadily, and the number of farmers growing mainly for fiber has seen a significant uptick. Nevertheless, the news is not all positive, according to Daniel Kruse, CEO of Düsseldorf-based Hempro International GmbH.
Kruse shares, “Price levels still do not pay off well enough for the farmers.” Furthermore, this could become a longer-term structural problem for many German farmers who may have to give up on growing hemp. The country’s current economic struggles, mainly in the form of inflation, also add to the difficulty in making hemp a viable option.
"Price levels still do not pay off well enough for the farmers.”
- Daniel Kruse, CEO of Düsseldorf-based Hempro International GmbH
Moreover, dramatic climate change ushering in more prolonged and hotter summers with ill-timed rainfalls for cultivation further dampens the long-term prospects for German hemp production.
Along with the economic and climate roadblocks confronting the hemp industry, outdated, confusing, and frustrating narcotic laws add further bureaucratic blockages at all levels. For example, German authorities have raided hemp shops, blocked the cross-border legal sale of imported flowers, and ordered some hemp foods off the market as police and public prosecutors continue to interpret existing laws in a very restrictive manner, often wholly ignoring clear EU directives on hemp.
Kruse, the European Industrial Hemp Association president, also shares, “Despite a record year of industrial hemp cultivation, the authorities continue to stand in the way of sustainable success with their arbitrariness and oppression.”
"Despite a record year of industrial hemp cultivation, the authorities continue to stand in the way of sustainable success with their arbitrariness and oppression.”
- Daniel Kruse, President of the European Industrial Hemp Association
The re-emergence of hemp in Germany goes all the way back to the 1990s. In fact, by 1999, farmers had cultivated over 4,000 hectares (roughly 10,000 acres) of hemp, with producers focusing primarily on growing hempseed-based foods and fiber during the first two decades of the 21st century.
This foresight on the part of early German (and others across the EU) hemp companies left them well-leveraged for the meteoric CBD boom and bust starting in 2019. With many of them having a pre-existing business, well-established supply chains, and market-validated non-CBD products to fall back on, they positioned themselves well to weather the unpredictable nature of the, at times, fickle hemp market.
Still, Kruse warns, hemp farmers must plan for dual outputs from their hemp operations. Whether producing flowers for CBD extraction and leaves for hemp tea or just flowers and fiber, they will fall short economically if they do not diversify.
Despite the encouraging news of growth in acreage and the number of plots, hemp will most likely remain a niche crop in Germany for the foreseeable future. By comparison, German farmers grow wheat on roughly three million acres. However, Kruse, a 25-year veteran of the European hemp experience, remains optimistic about the future of hemp in Germany.
He concludes, “Despite all obstacles, the outlook for Germany, especially in the context of hemp’s potential amid rising concern about the environment and EU’s attempts to address climate change, is positive for sure.”
"Despite all obstacles, the outlook for Germany, especially in the context of hemp's potential amid rising concern about the environment and EU’s attempts to address climate change, is positive for sure.”
- Daniel Kruse, CEO of Hempro International
Considering all the misinformation and frustrating obstacles in the way of hemp expansion in Germany, Europe and the burgeoning American market, it is a testament to the growers, end product suppliers and the plant itself that hemp cultivation continues to thrive. Moreover, as the 21st century continues to unfold, it will be exciting to witness the evolution and reach of a super crop that continues to defy critics, impediments and ignorance.