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Farming industry worth an estimated £1bn held back by legislation

11/12/2021 Blog

On Friday the Financial Times reported on UK businesses missing out on the potential £1bn domestic consumer market for CBD in the article ‘Hemp farmers lose their cool over post-Brexit regulations’. In this blog, Grow Yorkshire Lead Mark Blakeston gives his perspective on the development of the industry in Yorkshire and how legislation is holding it back.

On Friday the Financial Times reported on UK businesses missing out on the potential £1bn domestic consumer market for CBD in the article ‘Hemp farmers lose their cool over post-Brexit regulations’. In this blog, Grow Yorkshire Lead Mark Blakeston gives his perspective on the development of the industry in Yorkshire and how legislation is holding it back.

Earlier in 2021, Grow Yorkshire commissioned research into the Hemp sector and specifically the opportunities in the Yorkshire region. The report, which is now available to read online, was written by consultancy firm Promar International and supported by The Supply Chain Network. Yorkshire farmers already produce c.35-40% of the UK’s planted industrial hemp, the equivalent of around 280 – 320 hectares and together with other specialists, the region has a developing and exciting supply chain, however due to legislation, growers are unable to access the most lucrative part of the hemp crop – its flowers and leaves.

hemp sector statistics-1

Building on the Grow Yorkshire Hemp Supply Chain paper, several research projects are being developed by the Biorenewable Development Centre Yorkshire at York University and in partnership with Grow Yorkshire they are looking to establish a regional Hemp Special Interest Group to bring together stakeholders from across the region to develop a range of initiatives. Consumers are making more informed choices about their lifestyle from the clothes they wear, the food they eat, their carbon footprints and their energy efficient homes. These trends provide a wide range of opportunities for the utilisation of hemp in the future.

Researchers at the University of York and Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) are also leading the ‘Hemp-30’ project which aims to increase the amount of industrial hemp 100-fold in the UK seeking to establish industrial hemp as a major UK crop. The first development phase of the project has been awarded funding from the UK government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme, funded through the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Net Zero Innovation Portfolio.

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The enhanced legislation surrounding industrial hemp means that Yorkshire growers are unable to access the most lucrative part of the hemp crop – the flowers and leaves – which can be processed to produce cannabidiol (CBD) oil. There is a growing demand for CBD in the UK as it is used in health supplements, food and drink items and body care products. It Is estimated that the UK CBD market is worth £300 million and is set to reach an estimated £1 billion by 2025. Despite the growing market, UK growers remain cut off from the market and instead rely on imports, predominantly from the US and Eastern Europe. Data from UNCT indicates that in 2015 the UK imported 550 tonnes of CBD oil with this increasing by a CAGR of 30% to 1,690 tonnes in 2019. A handful of growers in the UK have managed to obtain a specific medicinal cannabis licence in order to grow and extract CBD but they are in the minority.

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