If you think that Chinese dominance rests solely in manufacturing, prepare to be shocked. China is also a leading producer of hemp oil. The National Bureau of Statistics approximates that half of all the legal hemp entering markets across the USA comes from China. Currently, the demand for CBD is ever expanding because of the numerous health benefits attributed to cannabidiol (CBD).
Origins of Hemp in China
How did it all begin? In a country where the possession and cultivation of cannabis, was outlawed in 1985, the history of the plant is fascinating.
For approximately 3000 years, cannabis has grown freely throughout the country. China also owns over half of the 606 patents regarding hemp worldwide. Most focus on its use in herbal preparations. The high number of patents came from government sponsored studies into hemp’s textile and medicinal properties.
They took place in the 1970s during China’s war with Vietnam. With warfare being waged in humid jungles, soldiers were constantly wet. Researchers found that hemp made fabrics could keep them dry since the fibre was breathable. Further studies revolved around the use of hemp in field hospitals.
The demand for the plant grew necessitating constant supply. Researchers created hybrid species that could survive in harsh climatic conditions. Now, hemp is legally grown in Heilongjiang province, the northernmost part of China, home to some of the country’s harshest weather conditions. Some varieties can also survive drier conditions found in northern regions bordering the Gobi Desert.
Local hemp farmers are highly motivated to grow the “green gold” despite being outlawed. Consider that one hectare can yield $1500 compared to traditional crops which average $124 per hectare. High returns are caused by its numerous uses. It’s a raw material for textile industries. The stem produces beautiful, pristine garments. Pharmaceutical companies also contribute to the demand, using the leaves to derive medicines. Food industries required the seeds in the production of beverages, snack foods, and oils.
All these factors have made China an unrivalled exporter of hemp oil and its derivatives. Other giant producers include France, Chile, Holland, and Canada. This plant that once produced paper may drive the next wave of China’s economic success, as CBD use in medicine grows. For instance, UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency considers CBD products as medicines.
Concerns in the Hemp CBD Industry
Of course, there is growing concern about China’s dominant role in the hemp industry. Most attention comes from the USA, where users consume CBD products without the knowledge that the large percentage comes from China.
Considering that most US states still prohibit the cultivation of any strain of Cannabis sativa, China’s role as a top producer will be affirmed. Closer home, the cultivation, and possession of cannabis in the UK, draws serious punishment. Even if growers in the US states –where cultivating hemp is legal –try to boost production to dampen China’s influence, it may take decades before any change. China is ready for the boom. Unfortunately, it is hard to beat them, which makes it obvious to just join them.
The Sleeping Giant Awakens
South China Morning Post reports
The military needed to develop a fabric that could keep soldiers clean and dry in Vietnam’s humidity, and cannabis hemp offered the fiber that breathed and was antibacterial. Other studies explored the plant’s use as a drug in field hospitals.
As a result of that research, more than half of the world’s 600-plus patents related to the plant are now held in China, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization. This has prompted concerns in the Western pharmaceutical industry that the Chinese government or Chinese firms might take advantage of the patent barriers.