Allgäu farmers are increasingly taking advantage of the opportunities offered by hemp cultivation

Status: 07.11.2021 11:24 a.m.

Even before the current debate about cannabis legalization, interest in industrial hemp had grown significantly. Its cultivation is permitted and offers opportunities that farmers in the Allgäu are increasingly taking advantage of.

By Michaela Neukirch, BR

The area is as large as 35 soccer fields. Six farmers from the Allgäu have been testing there over the summer how well hemp can be grown. The seeds were sown in May, and the first hemp harvest has now come in. The conclusion is positive: “Hemp cultivation in the Allgäu will definitely make sense in the future,” says Wolfgang Mösle.

He is one of the participating farmers from near Memmingen. Especially now that the prices for milk and meat are falling, hemp cultivation offers farmers the chance for an additional income, according to Mösle. Together with four entrepreneurs from the Allgäu region, the farmers have joined forces to form “Hanfu GmbH” and want to bring back the hemp, which was previously at home in the region.

So far only cultivation of industrial hemp has been allowed

It’s not about the intoxication. Because so far in Germany only so-called industrial hemp has been grown – i.e. hemp with a THC content of less than 0.2 percent. But even without its intoxicating effect, the plant is trendy. According to experts, hemp could become an important material of the future.

Wenzel Cerveny, chairman of the Cannabis Association in Bavaria, also emphasizes that there are many uses for hemp, from insulating material for the construction industry to food and cosmetics to textiles. “It’s a billion dollar market. In the long term, the commercial hemp market will be much larger than the THC market,” he says. “In theory, up to 50,000 different products can be made from industrial or commercial hemp.”

Currently oversupply

Whether seeds, leaves or stems – the plant can be 100 percent recycled. This prospect has lured many into the market in recent years. According to the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food, industrial hemp was grown nationwide in 2021 on an area of ​​6,443 hectares. 863 farms are currently listed as growers.

In this context, Cerveny speaks of an oversupply that currently prevails on the industrial hemp market. “In the last four years, many farmers have started growing hemp,” he says, but encourages newcomers such as the Allgäu farmers. The more farmers grow hemp, the more it will “attract innovative people who process these substances again, for example into paper or plastic”.

After the positive test run this year, the Allgäu farmers at Hanfu GmbH want to greatly expand hemp cultivation in 2022.

Image: Michaela Neukirch, BR

Fight for approval of further varieties

Currently 52 varieties of industrial hemp are certified for cultivation within the EU. For decades, Cerveny has been fighting for the release of more strains and the legalization of cannabis. Among other things, he hopes “that the hemp as such will no longer be demoned, but will come out of the black market corner.”

The hemp farmers could also benefit from this. Because farmers still encounter many prejudices. Walkers or drivers who noticed the Allgäu hemp fields in the summer reported this to the police or even helped themselves to the leaves. In vain, because with its low THC content, industrial hemp is not good for intoxication.

Even with legalization, many questions remained

With a view to the future federal government, Gerhard Diepolder, Managing Director of Hanfu GmbH, makes it clear: “Even if hemp is legalized, there would still be so many hurdles before we can grow this hemp freely: Who protects the hemp? Fencing? Guarding? So the topic is still left out for us at the moment. ” Because he emphasizes: The plant is valuable even without THC.

Overall, the Allgäu farmers are satisfied with their attempt. Despite the rainy summer, the hemp grew well here. That’s why they want to plant more than 1000 hectares with hemp next year instead of the previous 25 hectares.

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