On October 23th and 24th 2003, almost 50 hemp experts from 15 different countries – Japan, China, Australia, South Africa, and of course Europe – met in Hürth in The Rhineland. Speakers from the most important hemp cultivation countries gave lectures on cultivation, processing and product lines. With regard to the EU countries France, The Netherlands, Great Britain and Germany, it became clear which state of professionalism has been achieved meanwhile by the hemp industries in the fields of cultivation, harvest technique and primary processing. Hemp cultivation figures have been rising again in the EU and Germany in 2003 (see chart). The most important EU sales markets are speciality pulps, the automotive industry, and the insulation material industry.
Special attention was payed to the German insulation material market introduction program for renewable ressources (see notice of 2003-07-23) which is expected to bring about considerable sales impulses.
The presentations from China and Italy produced much interest. In China there are ambitious plans for establishing a new hemp industry (see notice of 2003-07-22). The Italian hemp company Gruppo Fibranova is about to build up a new European hemp textile line – a real novelty. The company was accepted as sixth member of the EIHA at the conference – the first addition since the year 2000.
At the end of the first conference day, a panel discussion on the economics and EU subsidies of European hemp utilisation took place, being attended by two representatives of the German and English ministries of agriculture, besides those of the leading hemp companies.
It became obvious that the cooperation between authorities and the hemp industry has increasingly improved – although control expenses are still immense. It was resolved at the nightly EIHA internal meeting that the latter shall be founded as self-contained and official association. Simultaneously, however, already existing structures of the traditional flax sector shall be used for representation in Bruxelles.
On the second conference day, new technical developments from the field of natural fibres (composites, natural fibre PP mould injection, hemp fibre bio-plastics) were introduced, as well as current national and EU projects on the hemp topic (enzyme-based fibre separation for textile utilisation, biotechnical optimization and development of new hemp strains, quality management). Finally, a new system for the colour classification of hemp fibres was introduced which could become the EIHA standard in the future.
On the whole, the conference was characterized by intensive exchange and discussions.
Despite all differences and competition situations, there was a great readiness for cooperation amongst the companies and institutes of the European and world-wide hemp branch.
You can find more information at the homepage of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA). Furthermore, there will a cd rom available at this site within short, featuring almost all lectures of the congress, at the price of 50 EUR.
Source: EIHA press release, 2003-11-01.