Hemp and Cotton have both got a long standing place in human history. Textile can be made from both but there are significant differences between both. Significantly, the pros of hemp outweigh the advantages of cotton as a fabric. This is not news and the benefits of hemp for mankind have been known for centuries. However, in the 20th century, industrial hemp had to undergo injustice at the hands of other more powerful industries. It was wrongfully banished to the side-lines as an illegal substance.
But now all that stands to change with decriminalization of hemp in countries such as the United States and Australia.
The 2018 Farm Bill which was sanctioned by President Donald Trump last year will be a huge shot in the arm for hemp farmers and would be hemp businesses.
Cotton vs Hemp
Cotton has been around for a long time and life without cotton seems unthinkable. Cotton is affordable and can be used to make different products. However, there is an argument and evidence to show that hemp has the same capabilities as cotton without having any of its weaknesses.
Some of the reasons why hemp steals a march over cotton are as follows:
Hemp can grow without the use of pesticide but cotton is responsible for using 25% of the world’s entire pesticide.
Hemp requires 300-500 liters of water to produce 1 kg of dry hemp while cotton requires more than 20000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of cotton. This is the same amount of cotton needed to produce a t-shirt and pair of jeans.
Hemp yields more crops per acre than cotton. Hemp produces 1500 pounds of fiber per acre whereas cotton only produces 500 pounds per acre. Similarly, the cotton industry uses 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and 10 percent of the world’s pesticides.
Hemp fibers have a relatively large surface area. This is the reason they absorb more water. More water-absorbent means that they can retain its colour better than any other fabric including cotton or linen.
The challenges for hemp
To grow hemp, state approval is needed in a place such as Australia and if you’re irrigating, you’ll also need an irrigation license.
There needs to be more agronomic knowledge about this crop. Once more awareness and knowledge is spread, the next step would be infrastructure. For example, the equipment such as cotton gins can’t take hemp as they can’t weave hemp fiber.
In terms of infrastructure, there is no harvesting equipment, there isn’t a huge seed supply, decertification facilities need to exist so that the crop can be shredded properly.
The legalization of hemp in 2018 in the USA is a positive that will encourage hemp cultivation. Farmers are coming back to cultivate hemp but almost a century of drug prohibition means that it will take time before we see substantial progress.
Another issue facing farmers in the U.S. is seed fraud. People have reported getting different seeds than the ones they ordered or ones with low germination rates. Male seeds have been also mixed in with female seeds. This contamination becomes an issue because most farmers are looking to grow seeds for CBD oil only and that requires only female seeds.
Banking is another industry where the historically risk-averse sector has not extended its services to hemp cultivators.
However, all is not doom and gloom. At the moment there are less than a million acres of hemp growing across the world. But this should change in the next 5 to 20 years. According to Grand View Research, the global industrial hemp market is forecast to reach US$10.6 billion by 2025. The compound annual growth rate is supposed to be 14% by that time. This is due to the demand for hemp’s nutritional and cosmetic properties. The market is out there. It is just a matter of waiting patiently for everything to come together.