The hemp fibre industry in Northern Europe has received a strong boost, now that HempFlax BV in Oude Pekela has taken over two competitors. On Wednesday, HempFlax Managing Director Ben Dronkers announced that the activities of the Dutch processing company Hempron in Nieuwe Pekela and of Vernaro in Gardelegen (Germany) would be continued under HempFlax’s management.
As a result of the takeovers, the company in Oude Pekela has become one of the largest processors and suppliers of hemp fibre and flax in Northern Europe. HempFlax provides such products as hemp fibre to the automobile, paper and cigarette industry. With the takeover of Vernaro, HempFlax will also provide high-quality natural fibres for innovative applications in the aviation and aerospace industry, as well as the construction and textile sector and to automobile companies.
The final formalities for acquiring HempFlax’s bankrupt competitor Hempron were taken care of on Wednesday. HempFlax and the law firm Rollingswier Breuker Blokzijl and Lettinga in Groningen had reached agreement on Friday, 7 March. G. Breuker acted on Hempron’s behalf as the trustee in bankruptcy. The company in Nieuwe Pekela/Scheemda had been declared bankrupt on 4 February. Of the three takeover candidates, HempFlax made the most favourable offer.
The last obstacle to the takeover was the price which 60 arable farmers wished to receive for processing around 6,000 tons of hemp straw, which is being stored on the property. The harvest for 2002 had been grown at Hempron’s instruction, but will now be processed by HempFlax. Arable farmers who had concluded a cultivation contract with Hempron will be able to grow hemp for HempFlax in the coming season.
HempFlax had previously reached agreement on taking over the business activities of the German fibre processor Vernaro in Gardelegen. The intention is for this region to the east of Berlin to become home to high-quality technological companies.
HempFlax has incurred costs of more than one million euros to take over the two companies. At the end of 2002, the Groningen company invested 1.2 million euros in a new processing line. Expanding the scale of hemp cultivation and production capacity is essential to give this sustainable agricultural sector a chance to succeed in Northern Europe in the long term. The European Community provides subsidies to hemp growers and processors, but these are being reduced each year.
In 2002, HempFlax sold approximately 2,000 tons of fibre from the Peat District to the paper and cigarette industry. The automobile industry was also supplied with 1,200 tons of fibre. Last year, competitor Hempron supplied the paper industry with around 600 tons of fibre. In Germany, Vernaro provided approximately 1,000 tons of fibre to the automobile industry.
In the coming season, HempFlax expects to use around 150 arable farmers and 3,000 hectares of land to grow hemp in the Netherlands alone, which will translate into an estimated harvest of 20,000 tons of hemp straw. The increased production will result in greater continuity for sales in the growing natural fibre market.
For many years, the German government and financial sector have been providing a great deal of support to innovative companies related to sustainable agriculture. Hemp is an organic plant which is grown without using pesticides. Hemp fibre is known as an agrification crop which can be used as a sustainable alternative for synthetic materials and wood products which are damaging to the environment. Hemp products can often be recycled.
Unfortunately, the Netherlands has lagged behind Germany in terms of supporting the sustainable agriculture sector. Hemp cultivation is still viewed with suspicion in the Netherlands. Despite the lack of cooperation from banks and governmental bodies, HempFlax has become a leading natural fibre company in Europe in the last ten years, and the company serves as an example of sustainable entrepreneurship. The total processing chain initiated by HempFlax has produced jobs for hundreds of people.
HempFlax is not only a pioneer in the area of sustainable agriculture in Northern Europe, but also an innovator in hempseed distribution. The company developed different hemp fibre varieties with a low level of THC. Years of research resulted in high-quality technology for processing hemp fibre. A patent has been acquired for techniques in which the tough hemp stalks can be harvested problem-free by machine.
The possibility for using hemp fibre as a raw material in various industrial sectors leads to far-reaching, sustainable innovation. European research institutes such as TNO have established long-term research programmes to investigate the feasibility of innovative industrial applications of hemp fibre.
Numerous high-quality developments are in the offing. For example, after special treatment, hemp fibre can be used brake discs. Another promising development is the production of plastic granules with hemp fibres.
Hemp fibre is already being used as a sustainable replacement for plastics in such cars as Mercedes-Benz, Opel, VW, BMW, Audi and Skoda. By opting for hemp fibre, the automobile sector is making an important contribution toward reducing the greenhouse effect. Each car supplied uses fewer kilos of plastic and synthetic fibres.
In addition to playing a role in the automobile industry, the textile branch and the construction sector, hemp fibre can also be found in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry, the food sector and animal care.
Source: Pressrelease from HempFlax BV by 2003-03-21.