When someone hears of the word hemp, cannabis or marijuana comes quickly to mind. However, there is a type of hemp which has low-THC cannabis sativa and is called industrial hemp. It has many applications which could jumpstart any lackluster economy such as in India.
India is one of the world’s largest exporter of cotton. However, modern cultivation method leans on the heavy use of pesticides, and its farmers usually develop depression when involved in a cycle of debt. Poor practices in third-world countries also put pressure on India to produce more cotton.
Experts are looking into industrial hemp as a possible cotton alternative. It can be used in molded plastics, paper, clothing, particleboard, and food. Farmers would be overjoyed upon knowing that industrial hemp is more resilient than cotton. It does not require much water or land and takes only three months to harvest compared to nine months for cotton. Industrial hemp can be planted twice a year, and it can also resist weeds without the need for herbicides.
Hemp plantations were banned in India in the 1980s due to the United States’ international war on drugs. The world’s top exporters of industrial hemp are the Netherlands and China. India only exports 0.45% of the global supply since their hemp still has high levels of THC.
Now, a startup called Boheco (Bombay Hemp Company) is trying to change all that. The company was able to produce a commercial-grade hemp strain that is low on THC with the help of Indian government. Boheco has 150 varieties of seeds and plans to use 25,000 acres of land for cultivation.
Boheco wants to expand to medicines, but in the meantime, it focuses on producing hemp fabric to be used in textiles. The resiliency of hemp fabric is a cut above the rest as it is the world’s strongest natural fiber. It can also withstand 98% of UV and drive off bacteria and dust. Other than fabrics, Boheco also manufactures products derived from hemp such as hemp seeds, oils, proteins, lip balms, body creams, hand butter, soap bars, badges, t-shirts and swatch books.
There are three other companies in India which specialize in industrial hemp: The Hemp Couture, Be Hemp India and Indian Industrial Hemp Association.
Aside from fabrics, hemp can also be utilized as a fuel, and its seeds can be used as a protein source. Hemp can also be used in making papers, saving as much as 12 trees in the process.
One of the reasons why hemp is better than cotton is its durability even when wet. Its strengths have been known and used since the exploration era. Hemp canvas was utilized as ship sails long time ago.
Now is the time to revive the industry and make regulations so that people will stop associating industrial hemp with cannabis, which gives it a negative connotation. Hemp cultivation is practical, and yields are bigger because it can grow fast and tolerate pests and weeds. Countries such as India should invest more in hemp cultivation as another source of inspiration for its sagging economy.
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