Agribusiness

Sicily Signals Shift to Industrial Hemp to Make Up for Agricultural Shortfalls

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Written by Colby McCoy

Since 2017, hemp cultivation has been legal in Italy. From 2013 to 2016, the amount of land utilized for hemp production had increased from 400 hectares to 4,000 hectares.

According to Italian law, hemp can be grown and sold for non-pharmaceutical purposes and it must meet a THC threshold of 0.2%. Focusing agricultural production towards hemp is a big deal for Italy, which has been experiencing a glut in their agricultural economy in recent years.

As with many American farmers, Italian farmers are also looking to cash in on their hemp crops with the hope that they will fare better pricewise on the market in comparison to traditional agricultural commodities, which have experienced a drop in prices.

A 2018 Guardian article pointed to the disparity in prices between hemp and wheat, for example. A hectare of wheat will earn a farmer roughly $250 while a hectare of hemp can generate an excess of $3,000 depending on prices.

Needless to say, it makes perfect sense that Italian famers are beginning to shift focus when it comes to crops. Another plus with hemp is that it has multiple uses. Not only is hemp good as a material for clothing, construction, and more, but also makes for an excellent food product.

One region of Italy in particular is kicking their hemp operation into overdrive, Sicily. In August 2020, a member of the Sicilian Regional Assembly put forth a new bill proposing to greatly expand hemp cultivation and production as local producers envision hemp being a valuable raw and semi-raw material across multiple industries.

According to Assembly deputy Giorgio Assenza, “The role of agriculture today has new needs arising from the renewed needs of consumers,” adding that “Sativa hemp is a large portion of the agricultural future of our region.”

Indeed, Italy is poised to cash in on the lucrative hemp trade that is sweeping global agricultural markets. Only time will tell whether Italy’s gamble on hemp will yield any fruit.

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/PGc9Vid8O24

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Colby McCoy

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