Hemp may be a superfood in the modern era of America, but it’s history dates back much further than U.S. cultivation and legalization. Since the advent of agriculture, hemp has been a staple crop for many civilizations. Hemp cords used for pottery can be dated back to nearly 10,000 years ago. The versatile crop has since made its way into food, textiles, and medical industries. It’s efficiency and tolerance in most growing regions of the world, coupled with its plethora of uses has made hemp the original cash crop in almost all countries of the world.
Hemp is an annual crop, meaning that it is grown and harvested once a year rather than being grown continually throughout the year. It thrives in areas with relatively low elevation and healthy soil, making hemp a popular cash crop for many countries. While it is grown worldwide, these five countries are making leaps and bounds ahead of the rest in modern hemp cultivation:
Chile is an enigma in the cannabis world because of its somewhat ambiguous regulations on hemp cultivation and use. Public consumption and commercial cultivation are illegal; however, the recreational growth and usage of the plant in Chile is largely unregulated. Despite its limited legality, Chile surpasses all other Latin American countries in cannabis consumption and production.
Hemp has been grown in the Quillota Valley of Chile since the early 1500s. Hemp fiber was used for shipping and army outfitting, as well as potential seed oil production. The Quillota Valley is still a primary area for hemp cultivation in Chile, as with some of the country’s other staple crops.
Because of the informal nature of hemp production, it is uncertain the exact acreage dedicated to hemp production. However, it is safely assumed that they surpass other Latin American countries and many of the rest of the world, with the exception of these next four.
France has always been at the forefront of European hemp production, surpassing their neighbors by nearly double the crop yields in recent years. While the rest of Europe is starting to catch up, France is still its leader in hemp cultivation and export.
Some researchers assert that hemp has been grown and harvested in France for crude textile production since the early Neolithic age. The first agriculturalists in the region used hemp for animal bedding and feed, as well as for creating ropes and clothing. France may very well be the first place where hemp was farmed in mass production.
While France has had a long history with hemp, their industry nearly died out with the introduction of cotton to their agricultural system. Cotton had been shipped from the Americas, but in the early 20th century it became a staple French crop which nearly replaced hemp entirely. However, hemp had a resurgence in the 1960s, and as of 2017, the country has over 43,000 acres dedicated to its cultivation.
The U.S. has quickly shot up from being a country where virtually no hemp was grown, to being the third-most prolific hemp cultivator in the world. Since the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized commercial hemp production, the U.S. has expanded to over 78,000 hemp-producing acres across 23 states.
In the United States, hemp is primarily grown for CBD production. Other hemp products, such as textiles, hemp plastics, and hempcrete are typically imported because of their lower profit margins. However, with the expansion of university and private research programs for hemp, this may change.
Though the U.S. has made great strides in the hemp industry in the past few decades, it has not been able to surpass these next two countries, who have never enacted hemp prohibitions.
According to Health Canada, the Canadian agency which supplies hemp growing licenses, over 75,000 acres across the country are being used for the cultivation of hemp. That’s an 80% increase from 2016, earning them the record for the second-highest producer of hemp around the world.
Canadian commercial hemp is primarily grown in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba. Unlike the U.S., CBD is still a by-prescription-only commodity in Canada, and therefore most of Canadian-grown hemp is used for other resources. Hemp is very popular in the food industry for oils, protein powders, and seeds.
While Canada’s hemp market may be growing exponentially, it does not compete with this next country, the largest hemp producer in the world.
China has been the world’s leader of hemp production for centuries. They currently produce about 70% of the world’s hemp. Since it has never been banned in the country, which has helped the Chinese hemp industry to grow to over 200,000 acres nationwide.
The Chinese use hemp primarily for fiber and food. In fact, hemp production saved much of the country from starvation in World War II. It’s seeds and oils are a common addition to the Chinese diet. Hemp in China is also available for a relatively affordable price, unlike in much of the U.S. where hemp products are still considered higher ticket items.
While hemp oil and seeds are a common food product in China, nearly 40% of Chinese hemp produced is exported to other countries. More hemp is exported out of China than is grown in the United States. This brings them to the top of the global industry for hemp, with plenty of knowledge to give to the Western world.
While hemp and CBD products are shipped to us from around the world, the best place to buy hemp is in your home state. Locally-grown and third-party tested CBD products are more eco-friendly and higher quality than those shipped from outside the U.S. To find vetted and affordable hemp and CBD products near you, visit our buyer’s guide.