China’s Heilongjiang province has intensified its research and development efforts to make fine, environment- friendly hemp fibres a large-scale alternative to cotton and will review its hemp production value chain to produce hemp on an industrial scale. The total area under hemp cultivation in this province may reach 150,000 acres by early 2018.
The area under hemp cultivation in the Heilongjiang province has grown from below 2,500 acres to more than 74,000 acres within a few years, a level on par with the overall hemp cultivation area in Canada or Europe, according to a report by Germany-based private institute nova-Institute GmbH. China is the second largest hemp planting country in the world.
The province, where experts work on hemp foods and pharmaceuticals, hosted an international hemp conference in the first week of August in Harbin with the theme ‘Developing global hemp industry, innovation, cooperation, green, win-win’. Participants from Europe, Canada and Australia attended the conference to establish global networks and exchange technologies, products and marketing strategies.
Scientists at the conference highlighted the benefits of hemp fibres: a complex three-dimensional structure, very good moisture absorption characteristics, anti-bacterial properties, sound UV protection and allowing textiles to dry fast.
Cotton needs a lot of water, soil salinity and the use of pesticides, all of which cause environmental problems and Chinese cotton is not very competitive, either qualitatively or price-wise, according to the nova-Institute.
Universities from the Chinese province and partners from Ukraine and Canada have developed new, high-yield hemp varieties using enzymes through a technique called ‘enzymatic cottonisation’ of hemp fibres. The fibres may then be processed alone or together with other fibres by cotton machines.
The Chinese army buys hemp uniforms and socks for its soldiers. Hemp fibres are now also used in the country in compound materials for door and pillar panels, dashboards and parcel shelves.